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Napoli's resurgence fueling Boston's lineup

Napoli's resurgence fueling Boston's lineup

Napoli's resurgence fueling Boston's lineup

BOSTON -- It wasn't long ago that first baseman Mike Napoli was in a prolonged power struggle at the plate, but thanks to a slight adjustment, he seems to have found his rhythm.

"He's getting his front foot down earlier than in a stretch of time where he was a little bit late, causing his swing to be a little more long," manager John Farrell said. "He just feels like he's getting ready on time sooner."

Napoli was certainly ready for David Price's 1-0 fastball in the bottom of the seventh inning on Wednesday: He smashed the 95-mph heater over the Green Monster.

The blast was the only offense Boston could muster against Tampa Bay in a 5-1 loss, but not even Price, who threw a complete game, could slow Napoli.

The slugger also hit a double in the contest, giving him seven hits and five RBIs over his last four games.

Napoli was a force for the Red Sox early in the season and was even among the league leaders in RBIs in April, but he cooled down considerably, culminating in a sluggish June in which he had just one home run and one double.

Without Napoli slugging, the Red Sox lacked power from the right side of the plate and a consistent option to protect cleanup hitter David Ortiz in the lineup.

But thanks in part to his improved timing at the plate, Napoli appears to have returned to his early-season form. After Wednesday's game against the Rays, he had 11 extra-base hits in July (five homers, five doubles and a triple), a .288 average and a .373 on base percentage.

Napoli hitting for power, Farrell said, does wonders for the lineup.

"[He's] lengthening out the lineup, giving further protection behind David, [he's an] extra-base threat at any point in time he steps into the box," Farrell said. "Those are all things he's capable of, and certainly things we'll need, but I think more than anything is just the confidence it's giving him to be able to drive the ball. It was evident by the base hit down the line [on Tuesday]; it gives him the ability to pull the ball on the inner half of the plate, where earlier there was a stretch where he wasn't on time to do that. It gives us the power threat that he is, more readily available."

Jason Mastrodonato is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @jmastrodonato. Michael Periatt is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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