After he blasted Hector Santiago’s changeup farther than any ball had been hit at Fenway Park this year, after he homered for the fourth time this weekend, after he took in all the high-fives waiting for him in the dugout, Mike Napoli’s head started swiveling and his eyes started darting.
He asked, “Where’s my bat?”
He picked up one, but that wasn’t it.
He knew which one belonged to him, because it had a special signature. Every so often, Napoli will spot a kid behind the dugout, and ask for their autograph.
“Everyone’s always asking me for my autograph, I think it’s pretty cool to go up to the kids and be like, ‘Hey, let me get your autograph,’ ” Napoli said. “They love that, and they write their name on the bat. It’s pretty cool.”
On Thursday, the last day of the Sox’ series against the Texas Rangers, it was a 9-year-old fan named Ethan.
Ever since then, Napoli’s been a one-man heat wave. He hit a solo homer against the Angels Friday night, came back and blasted two more Saturday night, then smacked a two-run shot 451 feet to center field in the second inning of the Sox’ 6-1 win over the Angels Sunday.
“It’s kind of crazy, the first home run I hit [connected] where he signed it,” Napoli said. “So it was pretty cool.”
Napoli became the first Sox player to homer on three straight days at home since Jason Bay in 2009. The bat was special, so once he found it, Napoli grabbed it at both ends, and planted a kiss on the barrel.
“I just kissed it where he signed it,” he said.
A two-run double in the eighth off the Green Monster gave Napoli a 2-for-3, four-RBI day. Over the Sox’ six-game homestand, he hit .429 with five home runs and 10 RBIs, putting his early season slump behind him.
“I’ve been there before and I’ve been in slumps in my career,” Napoli said. “I know I’m just one swing, one at-bat away from feeling good. I kept grinding and I wasn’t going to give up. I kept at it, worked with [hitting coach] Chili [Davis], got some good info from [Dustin Pedroia], and everything’s been going good since then.”
With Napoli supplying the lion’s share of the offense, Sox starter Wade Miley was able to settle into a groove, taking a perfect game bid into the fifth inning, retiring the first 14 batters he faced before giving up a two-out walk to Chris Iannetta and then a single to C.J. Cron.
Miley pitched eight innings of one-run ball, giving up just four hits and throwing just 97 pitches.
For the first time since the season’s early stages, manager John Farrell watched his team shine in every phase, from Miley’s pitching to Napoli’s power to sharp defense to timely hitting from crucial spots in the lineup.
The Sox had 12 hits, led by Xander Bogaerts, who matched his career high with the third four-hit performance of his career and his first ever 4-for-4 day.
“The one thing that I think over the last maybe seven days or so in our clubhouse is more the mentality of ‘Just go play the game,’ ” Farrell said. “Play the game to the situation that’s at hand and clearly the starting pitching has got to be consistent.”
Napoli also was able to yet again drive the stake through the team that traded him in 2011 after he spent his first five major league seasons there, going 5 for 9 with four homers and eight RBIs to help the Sox take two of three from the Angels. In 47 games against the Angels, Napoli has hit .333 with 18 home runs and 36 RBIs.
“I think there’s always a personal incentive when you go up against your original organization, regardless of how things played out over time,” said Farrell. “And that’s pretty common through most players.”
It’s certainly true for David Ortiz, who makes the Twins pay for releasing him every time he faces them with a .345 average, 20 home runs, and 50 RBIs. With Ortiz currently scuffling, traveling to Minnesota for the start of a seven-game road trip could be the best medicine.
“Hopefully,” Farrell said, “David does what Nap just did.”
It might also mean doing some autograph hunting behind the dugout with Napoli the next time he does it.
“I’ll do it every once in a while,” Napoli said. “I don’t try to wear it out.”