ST. PETERSBURG -- Mike Napoli once again served as the catalyst for the Texas offense with his go-ahead two-run homer in the seventh inning of the Rangers' 4-3 Game 3 victory Monday over the Rays at Tropicana Field.
Until his two-strike swing against starter David Price, the Rangers were trailing, 1-0, in a pitchers' duel.
It was nothing new for the 29-year-old Napoli, who had the second-highest two-strike batting average among American League hitters during the regular season. Including his second-inning single and seventh-inning blast, Napoli is now 69-for-232 (.297) in two-strike counts this year.
"I was just trying to put the ball in play," said Napoli, who entered the game 2-for-11 lifetime against Price. "He threw me some good changeups, a cutter down, and I fouled some off. I was just trying to battle, which I've been doing all year. I got a pitch up I could handle, and I hit a home run."
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It was Napoli's first postseason homer since Oct. 4, 2009, when he was a member of the Angels. He also became the first catcher in postseason history to homer, steal a base and throw out a runner in the same game.
With the Rangers trailing, 3-2, in the fourth inning of Game 2, Napoli worked a nine-pitch at-bat against James Shields with the bases loaded before connecting on a two-run single. Texas would go on to score another two more runs in the frame en route to an 8-6 win.
In three games of this AL Division Series, Napoli is 4-for-10 with four RBIs, three runs, a homer, a stolen base and a walk.
"He's gotten so many big hits for us this year," Rangers CEO and President Nolan Ryan said after the Texas took a 2-1 ALDS lead.
Behind the plate, Napoli has also gotten the job done, throwing out two of three would-be basestealers in the series. Tampa Bay finished second in the Majors with 155 steals in the regular season.
Rays speedster B.J. Upton tried to take second in a 4-3 ballgame in the eighth on Monday, but Napoli threw a rocket on Mike Adams' pitchout for the crucial first out of the inning. The next two batters walked, and during Ben Zobrist's at-bat, Neftali Feliz threw a wild pitch that made Napoli's play all the more important.
"[I try to] make sure I get my feet and legs under me and just make a throw," said Napoli, who threw out 36 percent of basestealers during the season. "You really just can't try to rush or get out of your game. [Adams] gave me a good pitch I could handle, and I just tried to throw it close to the bag."
For Napoli, who was traded to the Rangers by way of the Blue Jays over the offseason after spending five seasons with the Angels, things didn't get off to such a great start at his new home.
Napoli landed on the disabled list for three weeks in June with a strained left oblique muscle. His average sank to .221 at the time of his injury, but in 67 games following his return on July 4, Napoli hit .378 (88-for-233) to finish the season at .320 with career highs in home runs (30) and RBIs (75).
"He has been very special for us," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "And I commend [general manager] Jon Daniels and the group that scouted him and brought him in because he fits well with the rest of the guys we have there, and he's been a big, big part of why we have this opportunity to be in the playoffs and try to continue to move forward. And tonight, he showed it again."
Christina De Nicola is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.