Back & bashing
Fully powered lineup produces its second straight 10-run output
ARLINGTON — Seems safe to say that Mike Napoli’s back is doing just fine these days.
Not coincidentally, the Rangers’ offense is the picture of health, too.
In just his second game back from the disabled list, Napoli unloaded a pair of two-run homers that anchored separate five-run innings as the Rangers rolled to a 10-4 victory over the Seattle Mariners.
It was the second consecutive game that the Rangers reached double-digit runs — the first time they’ve done that this season.
It also was their seventh win in the last eight games and pushed them over .500 at 34-33 — their first time above break-even since they were 24-23 on May 24.
Clearly, the Rangers are in a good spot mentally after the return of Napoli and Carlos Gomez’s comeback from a hamstring injury.
“To get them to play to the name on the back [of the jersey], who they are and what they are, it’s huge,” manager Jeff Banister said. “To be able to insert Gomez and Nap and have them come back and do what they did is crucial for us going forward.”
And, of course, having Adrian Beltre around doesn’t hurt, either. His single in the first inning was one of five consecutive hits that came after two men were out, climaxing with Napoli’s first homer.
“That’s the heartbeat of our lineup, not only in the batter’s box but out on the defense,” Banister said of Beltre. “What he brings is irreplaceable.”
It was the second day in a row that the Rangers beat the Mariners by 10-4 scores.
For Napoli, who was not available to speak to reporters postgame, it was the 16th time in his career he’s had a multi-HR game and the second time this season. He had two against San Diego on May 11.
“He’s feeling a lot better, obviously,” said Beltre of Napoli. “He was lingering for weeks with the back injury, and he tried to play through it. That obviously didn’t help. It looks like he’s healthy now.”
The offense has had all of its firepower the last two games for the first time all season. The Rangers are in such a good spot now that they can afford to sit Delino DeShields and drop catcher Jonathan Lucroy, who has hit in the middle of the lineup much of the year, to the No. 8 spot.
And, of course, Joey Gallo and his 18 home runs batted ninth.
“We still have more bullets,” Beltre said. “I think we’re waiting for Cole [Hamels] to get back. Obviously, we’re playing better. We expect this. Our offense is deep enough to do this more often.” It wasn’t all about the bats. Martin Perez, who has lacked run support most of this season, was thrilled to be spotted a 5-0 advantage after the opening frame. The key to his success might have been how he rebounded from the third inning.
He threw 34 pitches in the inning but only allowed one run. Often this season, he’s had trouble rebounding from a troublesome inning like that. But he cruised through the fourth and fifth, before a rough sixth inning ended his workday.
Getting through the third was critical, he said.
“The first batter, a lot of foul balls and a double,” he said. “But after that, I just said to myself, ‘We got the lead and
just make your pitches and you’re going to be out of the inning.’ ”
In the sixth, he left after Mike Zunino’s 463-foot homer to center field. Jose Leclerc came in and struck out Guillermo Heredia and Taylor Motter to end the inning.
That set up the five-run sixth for the Rangers as they clinched their third consecutive series win with the finale of the three-game set Sunday.
“We got nicked up pretty good the last night [in Houston],” Banister said. “But they forget about that and move on. You have to have a core group of guys who believe in that. That is huge to get beat up a little bit and come back. These two games should be building blocks for us.”
Mike Napoli is congratulated by third-base coach Tony Beasley after his second two-run homer. Napoli, Carlos Gomez and Adrian Beltre have recently returned to the lineup, and the Rangers, who have consecutive 10-4 wins over Seattle, clearly have benefited from finally being at full strength.
Seattle’s Robinson Cano (left) disapproves of home plate umpire Joe West’s call as Rangers catcher Jonathan Lucroy jogs to the dugout on an inning-ending strikeout in the fifth.