05/18/08 8:06 PM ET
Napoli, Halos take Freeway Series
Backstop hits two HRs, throws out runner, catches Weaver 'W'
By Mike Scarr / MLB.com
At the plate, he went 3-for-4 with two home runs and a career-high five RBIs. Behind the plate, he flashed the right signals and helped guide Jered Weaver through 5 1/3 tough innings in 93-degree heat.
With plenty of other contributions to go around and a supportive bullpen, as three relievers combined for 3 2/3 scoreless innings, the Angels did what has become routine and beat the Dodgers to record a runaway 10-2 victory and maintain their claim as the better team in the greater metropolitan Los Angeles area.
It was the ninth time in the last 11 Interleague games between the two clubs that the Angels have come out on top, running their record to 37-28 since the inception of regular-season play between National and American League clubs in 1997.
Proving further dominance, the Angels can claim scoreboard and point to a 63-19 advantage in runs scored in those 11 contests.
Adding to that differential Sunday afternoon was Napoli, who also flashed some postgame repartee with manager Mike Scioscia.
"After the game, he was like, 'Good game ... on the catching side,'" said Napoli, who has 10 home runs this season. "That fires me up. I like that. I like that he messes around like that. I gave it right back to him and said, 'No, it was good offense.' It's a good day when I can have an offensive day like today and be able to catch a win."
That the Angels are built around pitching is well known, but their ability to groom catchers is equally respected throughout baseball.
The club currently has two homegrown catchers on the big league roster who would likely be starters on many other clubs. While Jeff Mathis has long been regarded as the superior defender and Napoli was a greater offensive threat, each can expand his game and Napoli works as hard if not harder on his defensive skills.
"Mike has shown the last couple of years that he's a terrific defensive catcher," Scioscia said. "He had some rough starts this year and had a tough time getting into sync, but he'll stand up there with anyone defensively. He's a great game-caller and has enough arm to control the running game."
Mathis has started 21 games behind the plate, while Napoli made his 25th start Sunday, but from mid-April to early May, Mathis was the go-to guy. The Angels' pitching staff responded to Mathis, posting a 3.51 ERA with him at catcher. But with Mathis getting three hits in his last 37 at-bats, Napoli has earned some playing time.
Napoli's outburst on Sunday proved the value he can bring on the offensive side. The Angels hit just one homer in their previous nine games, and Napoli doubled that output with two swings of the bat.
Weaver, who worked with Napoli in the Minors before they both joined the Angels in 2006, said the two have a good rapport. Napoli was also behind the plate in Weaver's last start, when he tossed one-hit, shutout ball over seven innings in a no-decision against the White Sox.
"He's always been great behind the plate," Weaver said. "We've always seen eye-to-eye on things. I've got pitches already set up in my hand, and he's there calling it. We've got a great relationship in that regard, and we know what each other thinks out there. It is great to have a guy like that behind the plate."
Weaver (3-5) didn't make it as far Sunday, due in part to the heat and also the fourth inning, when the Dodgers sent seven men to the plate and scored both of their runs on Jeff Kent's two-run single. But he was sharp enough to punch out seven, including five in a row over the second and third innings.
"I was able to locate and I was concentrating on hitting Nap's glove," Weaver said. "Things were breaking and I changed speeds pretty good."
Napoli hit his first home run of the day in the bottom of the second inning, when he drove an 0-2 pitch from losing pitcher Derek Lowe (2-4) into the visitor's bullpen in right field. After driving in Casey Kotchman in the fourth with a single, Napoli recorded the third multi-homer game of his career when he drove a 2-2 pitch from Dodgers reliever Scott Proctor to left in the sixth for a solo shot.
Doubles by Gary Matthews Jr., Garret Anderson and Torii Hunter produced two more runs in the seventh, but Napoli was the star.
"He did both today," Weaver said. "He threw down the right fingers and hit the [ball hard]."
Mike Scarr is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.