Rangers catcher Mike Napoli watches his two-run double fly into right-center… (Mike Stone / Reuters )
Reporting from Arlington, Texas -- Mike Napoli was on vacation last winter when he became part of what people in Texas are now calling The Greatest Trade of All Time.
That's all caps, by the way. Things, as you may have heard, are bigger in Texas.
Unappreciated in Anaheim and unwanted in Toronto, Napoli bounced between three teams in four days before finding a home in Texas.
Yet, now that convoluted journey has him a victory short of where he always wanted to go anyway: to a podium to accept a World Series trophy.
Napoli's two-run double Monday night broke an eighth-inning tie and lifted the Rangers to a 4-2 win over the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 5 of the World Series.
The Rangers have a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series, which resumes Wednesday in St. Louis.
But Manager Ron Washington promised the Rangers, who will bypass a workout to fly to St. Louis on Tuesday, won't approach the next game any differently from the 177 that preceded it.
"There's two games left to be played and our attitude is when we get the field again on Wednesday, we're just going to go out there and try to play the best game we can Wednesday," he said. "We can't be thinking about 'we've got to win this game,' because all of a sudden we might miss something.
"We want to stay in the moment, we want to play our game, and if it's good enough Wednesday, we'll win. If not, we'll play Thursday. But we certainly won't be out there thinking about 'we've just got to win one game.' I've been there before, and that doesn't work."
Napoli would certainly like to linger a bit longer in the moments he has experienced the last two nights. On Sunday, his three-run home run broke open a tight Game 4, giving the Rangers a comfortable victory. Then 24 hours later, his one-out, bases-loaded double was the difference again.
"I'm glad I can help to contribute," he said.
"Contribute" would be understating Napoli's role in the series. "Dominate" would be a little closer to the truth, because the Texas catcher in batting .308 with a team-high two home runs and nine runs batted in, making him responsible for nine of the 19 runs the Rangers have scored.
"He came as advertised as far as power, on-base percentage," Washington said of Napoli, who recorded career highs in virtually every offensive category during the regular season, including batting (.320), homers (30) and slugging percentage (.631).
Before they could get to Napoli's heroics, however, the Rangers had to fight their way through a shaky 51/3 innings from starter C.J. Wilson, four intentional walks -- three to slugger Albert Pujols -- and a St. Louis offense that was able to get runners on base but unable to get them home.
The Cardinals loaded the bases in the fifth and seventh innings but didn't score. And they got a man to third base on two other occasions but left him there, stranding 12 runners in a 1-for-12 performance with runners in scoring position.
"We have really good hitters, so if somebody gets them out, give credit to the pitchers," Manager Tony La Russa said. "There wasn't anything that was wrong with the way we went about it."
Well, maybe one thing. Allen Craig was thrown out at second base twice with Pujols at the plate, each time on what appeared to be blown hit-and-run plays.
"It was a mix-up." La Russa said. "And that's all I'm going to say."
Napoli, the man who threw out Craig both times, isn't saying much either. With his club on the verge of a World Series title, something he couldn't have imagined 10 months ago, he has promised not to change anything now.
"We're going to prepare the same way," he said. "Go out the same way and take our BP, go out there and play a game.
"We're a confident group, we expect to win every day and we'll go out there and play the game the right way."