Napoli's bat and glove in tune
With Morales out, Scioscia notices slugger's ability at first
NEW YORK -- When Mike Napoli gets locked in, he's about as dangerous as any hitter alive. With homers in three consecutive games heading into Wednesday's series finale at Yankee Stadium, the big man clearly is where he wants to be.
Napoli's bashing of Yankees pitching has been of epic dimensions. His 1.174 OPS (on-base plus slugging) against New York is the highest all-time among all hitters with at least 90 plate appearances, with Ted Williams -- a hitter of some renown -- right behind him. Napoli is a .391 career hitter against New York, having reached base safely in all 22 games in which he has had an at-bat.
Obscured by Napoli's booming bat -- a two-run homer, four RBIs and two other hits -- in Tuesday night's 10-2 rout was a superlative defensive play he made. Ranging far to his right at first base in the third inning, he made a diving stab of Mark Teixeira's bullet to rob his former teammate of a base hit.
"I feel like I'm getting better down there, and that definitely is a good feeling, contributing with the glove," Napoli said. "But driving a ball into the seats ... I love that. It never gets old."
Napoli, with eight hits in his past 16 at-bats entering Wednesday, has gone deep 17 times, leaving him three shy of his career high from each of the past two seasons, and he's on pace to hit 29. His glove work at first with Kendry Morales lost for the season has caught the attention of manager Mike Scioscia, who hadn't seen Napoli do anything but catch in his four Major League seasons.
"He's more comfortable [at first]," Scioscia said. "I think he's doing all we could hope for. He hasn't played there in four years. To get acclimated took some time, but he's much better now."
It's not inconceivable that Napoli is forging a new career path at the position. Morales has a powerful arm and a history, from his Cuba National Team days, of playing the outfield and third base.
Aybar's acrobatics blend in among Angels
NEW YORK -- Erick Aybar did it again on Tuesday night. Darting behind second base in a flash, he went to the ground, gloved a bullet by Derek Jeter, and threw out the Yankees' captain at first with a remarkable delivery from an awkward position.
"That was as good as it gets," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "[Maicer] Izturis also made a great play at third on the ball [hit by Mark Teixeira] off [Sean] O'Sullivan. Aybar's was so athletic, to finish it with a strong throw and get a guy who can run."
The Angels are now three deep at third with Kevin Frandsen and Brandon Wood along with Izturis, whose range, sure hands and accurate arm make him close to Gold Glove-caliber at three positions.
Invaluable Izturis given day to rest
NEW YORK -- Angels infielder Maicer Izturis was given the day off for Wednesday's series finale against the Yankees after making his first start in 28 games upon recovering from left forearm stiffness.
Izturis said he felt good after going 2-for-4 with a homer and three RBIs in Tuesday's 10-2 Halos win. When he settles back in, Izturis can bat second -- with Howard Kendrick moving back down into a run-producing spot -- or hit anywhere but fourth.
"We have options with Izzy leading off or in the No. 2 hole -- 1, 2, 3," manager Mike Scioscia said. "He's ideal to hit in front of the lineup. He brings everything from on-base [skills] to being able to bunt to hitting in the clutch. He can do a lot of things."
Torii Hunter, the cleanup man, has become a serious Izturis fan, noting that the infielder is a .326 career hitter with runners in scoring position and that "we seem to win a lot of games when he's in the lineup.
"I'm excited to get Izturis back," Hunter said. "He's one of the best clutch hitters around and a tremendous all-around player. He's a winner."
The Angels entered Wednesday with a 15-5 record when Izturis starts at third base, compared to 3-4 when he's at second or shortstop. He figures to see some time at those positions, spelling Erick Aybar and Howard Kendrick.
Over the past three seasons and first week of this one, the Angels' .613 winning percentage after the All-Star break is second in the Majors to the Yankees' .653 mark. ... Angels starting pitchers led the Majors in innings pitched with 599 1/3 heading into Wednesday's Yankee Stadium matinee. They had gone at least six innings in 14 of the past 16 starts, reaching seven innings nine times. ... Alex Rodriguez, who picked up an RBI with a groundout against Joel Pineiro in Wednesday's first inning, came into the game batting .152 against Pineiro in 33 at-bats. Before lining a double to the right-center-field gap, Mark Teixeira was batting .216 against Pineiro in 37 at-bats. It was no surprise when Robinson Cano was walked intentionally. He entered the at-bat 8-for-13 (.615) against Pineiro. ... Wednesday's Yanks starter, Javier Vazquez, retired Bobby Abreu in the first inning and breathed a sigh of relief. Abreu owns 10 homers in his career against Vazquez, having faced the right-hander 76 times before Wednesday's game. ... Minor League spotlight: Center fielder Peter Bourjos continues to make loud noises for Triple-A Salt Lake. With three hits, including a homer and a walk in a 9-8 win over Fresno on Tuesday, Bourjos is batting .435 with 12 runs scored in the past 10 games.
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.