Napoli home run helps Red Sox beat Rays 7-5
BOSTON (AP) No wonder Mike Napoli wanted to stay with the Red Sox: That home run he hit off the top of the Green Monster would not have been out of any ballpark but Boston's.
''It was a nice Fenway homer,'' Napoli said on Friday night after his two-run drive in the seventh inning gave the Red Sox the lead for good in a 7-5 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays.
A few hours after the trading deadline, when both teams looked to the future, the Red Sox rallied after blowing 3-1 and 4-3 leads to win back-to-back games for the first time in more than three weeks. They did it thanks to Napoli and Alejandro de Aza, another subject of trade talks.
''For Nap, it probably peaked personally for him today,'' Red Sox manager John Farrell said. ''I'm sure once the deadline closed, some of the ... potential distractions are eliminated.''
The Red Sox had already blown two leads when David Ortiz drew an 11-pitch walk with two outs in the seventh inning.
''He was fouling off some good pitches, and I was making a lot of good pitches that at-bat,'' Rays reliever Jake McGee said. ''It was kind of just whoever's going to win the battle at the end. It was a really good at-bat by him, and I feel like I made some good pitches.''
Napoli liked a shoulder-high fastball and hit a high fly ball that bounced on the ledge atop the 37-foot-high wall. The 33-year-old first baseman had been on the trading block as someone who would be more useful to a contender than Boston, headed to a second straight last-place finish.
''I wasn't worried about it. I just came to the park every day to make myself better,'' said Napoli, who said the team had not given up yet despite entering the night 13 games out with 59 games to play. ''I want to be a Red Sox. I signed here. I love my teammates.''
De Aza had a pair of RBI singles, one in the first to tie the game 1-1 and another to give Boston a 4-3 lead in the fifth. Blake Swihart also had two hits for the Red Sox, doubling with one out in the eighth and scoring on a wild pitch to make it 7-5.
Junichi Tazawa (2-3) won despite allowing John Jaso's two-run double that gave Tampa Bay a 5-4 lead in the seventh. Koji Uehara pitched the ninth for his 23rd save in 25 chances.
McGee (0-1) pitched one inning, giving up two runs on one hit and a walk.
The teams entered with 9-15 records in July - tied for the worst in the majors for the month. For the Rays, it was their worst July ever.
The Red Sox, who trailed by 10 games in the AL East on June 20, had cut the deficit in half before losing 12 of 14. Tampa Bay was a season-high 10 games above .500 on June 20 before losing 15 of 18 to fall out of first place.
Ortiz was 0-for-3 with a walk. But, oh, what a walk.
Rays manager Kevin Cash said Ortiz, who is 2-for-8 with two walks in his career against the McGee, took advantage of his experience against the Rays lefty.
''This is a guy that's seen a ton of at-bats,'' Cash said. ''They've had this match-up plenty of times, and tip your cap to David. It was an excellent at-bat.''
Rays: LHP Drew Smyly (torn left labrum) was sent on a rehab assignment to Single-A Charlotte. OF Desmond Jennings (left knee bursitis) will rehab at Triple-A Durham.
Red Sox: OF Hanley Ramirez (left shin) and 3B Pablo Sandoval (left forearm) got the game off. Both will be evaluated again on Saturday.
Rays: Left-hander Matt Moore (1-2) will try to snap a personal two-game losing streak in Game 2 of the series on Saturday at 1:35 p.m. The Rays will have a replacement in the morning for OF Mikie Mahtook, who was sent back down to Triple-A Durham after the game.
Red Sox: Joe Kelly (2-6) will try to win for the first time since June 6.