Adrian Beltre hits the first of his two home runs against the Athletics yesterday, in a 12-4 victory, driving in five runs and getting hot at the right time, just as the Astros come to town in the battle for first place.
The Rangers left field has been a deep dark pit of despair all season long.
They have tried a revolving door of twelve different players in left field, and only two of them have delivered in any way that might be considered acceptable over the long run: Josh Hamilton and Delino DeShields. And with DeShields, it was with Leonys Martin in center, so there was still a pit of offensive despair, it was simply relocated just a few feet away.
Coming into yesterday’s game, Rangers left fielders were hitting a combined .224 with just 50 RBIs. Only the catchers and pitchers have hit worse than the Rangers left fielders, and not by much. (That Rangers catchers are hitting just 30 points higher than Rangers pitchers tells you all you need to know about how disappointing Rangers catchers have been this season, with the exception of Chris Gimenez.)
Banister has run out everybody able-bodied carbon-based life form lately—Gallo, Strausborger, Stubbs, Rua—in left field with about the same results: None.
But yesterday he did something bold. It was the kind of thing they do in movies when an announcer in a deep voice says: “It’s an idea so crazy, it just might work.”
Starved for offense from a corner outfield position that is supposed to provide it in spades, Banister threw caution to the wind and ran Mike Napoli out there.
Mike Napoli in left field?
In ten years and more than 1,100 games, Napoli had never played left field. Not in the major leagues. Not in the minor leagues. Last time he played the outfield was in high school.
That says three things. One, how awful Banister’s options for left field are right now. Two, how desperate the Rangers are for offense. Three, how easy it is to play left field (run after the ball, catch it). If you disagree, I offer this: Manny Ramirez played left field. End of argument.
Suddenly, the Rangers lineup got deeper.
It was a gutsy, brilliant way to get Fielder, Moreland and Napoli in the lineup at the same time.
Napoli walked three times and scored two runs.
Was it merely a coincidence that the minute Banister inserts Napoli into left the Rangers offense explodes for twelve runs and four homers?
Putting Mike Napoli in left field proves Banister isn’t afraid to take risks. Even ones that come totally out of left field.