ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) – Mike Napoli and Endy Chavez are unlikely catalysts for a power surge that’s carried the Texas Rangers to their first three-game winning streak in over a month.
Napoli homered twice and drove in five runs, while Chavez drove in two with a solo homer and single to help the defending AL champions beat the Tampa Bay Rays 11-5 on Monday night.
The Rangers have 13 home runs in their last three games, with Napoli and Chavez delivering six of them from the bottom of the batting order.
“I’ve thrown all the mechanics out and just trying to see the ball and hit it,” said Napoli, who’s batting just .229 with 10 homers and 25 RBIs.
“I think I’ve been going up there thinking way too much about, you know, I’ve got to get my foot down, I’ve got to get my hands moving, rather than just playing the game,” he added. “I’ve been working hard. Trying to get my mind right and keep it clear.”
The veteran catcher batted eighth and homered for the third consecutive day, giving him four in three games. No. 9 hitter Chavez went deep for his second straight game, helping the Rangers amass a season-high 20 hits in their first meeting with Tampa Bay since Texas eliminated the Rays in the opening round of last year’s playoffs.
The Rangers improved to 11-4 when Napoli, who’s homered in three consecutive games three other times during his career, is the starting catcher.
“He does a good job,” Texas manager Ron Washington said, “and he happens to be swinging right now and putting some runs on the board.”
Mitch Moreland also homered in support of Derek Holland (4-1), who allowed five runs and five hits over 5 2-3 innings, but still won for the first time in more than a month. The left-hander gave up home runs to Ben Zobrist and Justin Ruggiano in the sixth, when the Rays scored four times to trim an eight-run deficit to 9-5.
Zobrist hit a solo homer and Ruggiano’s three-run shot chased Holland, who had gone six starts without being involved in a decision since beating Kansas City on April 22. Monday night’s win gives the Rangers their first three-game winning streak since a sweep of the Royals April 22-24.
Mark Lowe struck out B.J. Upton with the bases loaded to end the sixth. Darren Oliver got six outs and Dave Bush finished for the Rangers.
Napoli also connected Saturday and Sunday at home against Kansas City and is 7 for 12 with four homers and nine RBIs in the last three games. He had a three-run homer off Wade Davis (4-5) in the third and a solo shot off Andy Sonnanstine in the sixth before adding an RBI double off Juan Cruz in the eighth.
Josh Hamilton had a run-scoring double and sacrifice fly for the Rangers, who have hit 13 homers in their last three games. Adrian Beltre contributed a RBI single to help Texas build a 9-1 lead.
“We didn’t play good. It was one of our less impressive games overall,” Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon said after the Rays lost for the seventh time in 10 games. “But when you get off to that kind of a start pitching-wise, it really makes things little more difficult.”
Chavez, recalled from Triple-A Round Rock on May 14, homered for the second time in three days after not having hit one in the major leagues since May 31, 2009, when he was with Seattle. He homered against Kansas City during a win Saturday, then did not play in the Rangers’ 7-6 victory over the Royals on Sunday.
Davis is 0-3 while allowing 19 runs in 21 2-3 innings over his past four starts. He’s given up nine home runs in his past five outings after yielding one in his first six starts of the season.
Nevertheless, Maddon thought he saw some progress from the 25-year-old right-hander.
“He’s not been consistent with his game to this point, but I really am kind of encouraged,” Maddon said. “I saw better velocity, I saw a good delivery. They just hit him tonight.”
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