CLEVELAND — Mike Napoli’s hips were deemed so bad that the Red Sox pulled their contract offer off the table.
On Thursday night, he helped win a game with his base running.
Napoli had a triple in the second inning, taking advantage of a wind-blown fly ball to right field to get in position to score the first run of the game. Then came some fancier moves in the seventh inning.
It started with Jacoby Ellsbury singled off Nick Hagadone. Bryan Shaw then got Shane Victorino to ground to the right side. But second baseman Cord Phelps bobbled the ball for an error.
Ellsbury tagged up and went to third when Dustin Pedroia flied out to deep right field. Napoli followed with an RBI single to right.
Victorino went to third on the play and scored on Nava’s sacrifice fly to center field. An alert Napoli tagged up and took second on the throw to the plate.
Napoli took second initially hoping to distract the Indians from throwing Victorino out at the plate. Because center fielder Drew Stubbs has a good arm and had was breaking in on the ball, Napoli thought maybe he could deke the Indians into cutting the throw. He was willing to trade an out for the Red Sox building a three-run lead.
Instead, Napoli ended up on second and scored on a single by pinch hitter Mike Carp. He slid around the tag on a close play.
“We’re going to be aggressive on the bases,” Napoli said. “We’re not going to be crazy or try to run into outs.”
Being more productive on the bases was something the Red Sox talked often about in spring training, literally from the first day. It wasn’t just talk.
“We’re going to put pressure on the defense and we’re going to run the bases smart,” Napoli said.
• Red Sox starters have yet to allow more than three earned runs in a game. It’s the longest streak to start a season since the 1981 Oakland Athletics went 16 games. Sox starters are 8-2 with a 2.32 earned run average.
• Jon Lester was done after seven innings and 115 pitches. He allowed two runs on four hits with one walk and five strikeouts. It speaks to how good his first three starts were that such a performance raised his earned run average from 1.42 to 1.73.
• Ellsbury (2 for 5) has hit safely in eight straight and 13 of 15 this season.
• It was 81 degrees at game time. But Alfredo Aceves sat in the dugout wearing a ski mask and holding a bat. Seriously.
• Stephen Drew (0 for 4) is 2 for 23. The Jose Iglesias Fan Club is up in arms.
• As we reported earlier, the Sox are sending Jackie Bradley to Pawtucket. John Farrell didn’t exactly announce it after the game. But when asked if he had a roster move, he said they hadn’t had a chance to speak to Bradley.