On the verge of winning their first road trip of the 2014 season, it took a superb play by first baseman Mike Napoli to squelch a potential late-inning rally by the Cincinnati Reds and help the Sox pull out the victory.
With the Red Sox clinging to a 5-4 lead with one out in the bottom of the eighth, Brayan Pena smoked a 2-2 pitch from Junichi Tazawa on a rope toward right field that would have put the tying run on base for Ryan Ludwick.
Napoli saved Tazawa’s bacon, though, as the first baseman made a leaping grab to snare the ball and send a frustrated Pena back to the Cincinnati dugout. Tazawa then struck out Ludwick to end the eighth before Edward Mujica came on and earned the save for the Sox.
Since switching to first base full time before last season, Napoli has shown to be an impressive defensive first baseman, locking down the position on a Sox team that used strong defense as a piece to their 2013 championship run.
The Red Sox’ win over the Reds on Wednesday ended their eight-game road trip on a high note, going 5-3 to post their first winning trip of the year that lasted more than three games.