TB@BOS: Napoli smashes a solo homer over the Monster

BOSTON -- It wasn't long ago that first baseman Mike Napoli was in a prolonged power struggle at the plate, but thanks to a slight adjustment, he seems to have found his rhythm.

"He's getting his front foot down earlier than in a stretch of time where he was a little bit late, causing his swing to be a little more long," manager John Farrell said. "He just feels like he's getting ready on time sooner."

Napoli was certainly ready for David Price's 1-0 fastball in the bottom of the seventh inning on Wednesday: He smashed the 95-mph heater over the Green Monster.

The blast was the only offense Boston could muster against Tampa Bay in a 5-1 loss, but not even Price, who threw a complete game, could slow Napoli.

The slugger also hit a double in the contest, giving him seven hits and five RBIs over his last four games.

Napoli was a force for the Red Sox early in the season and was even among the league leaders in RBIs in April, but he cooled down considerably, culminating in a sluggish June in which he had just one home run and one double.

Without Napoli slugging, the Red Sox lacked power from the right side of the plate and a consistent option to protect cleanup hitter David Ortiz in the lineup.

But thanks in part to his improved timing at the plate, Napoli appears to have returned to his early-season form. After Wednesday's game against the Rays, he had 11 extra-base hits in July (five homers, five doubles and a triple), a .288 average and a .373 on base percentage.

Napoli hitting for power, Farrell said, does wonders for the lineup.

"[He's] lengthening out the lineup, giving further protection behind David, [he's an] extra-base threat at any point in time he steps into the box," Farrell said. "Those are all things he's capable of, and certainly things we'll need, but I think more than anything is just the confidence it's giving him to be able to drive the ball. It was evident by the base hit down the line [on Tuesday]; it gives him the ability to pull the ball on the inner half of the plate, where earlier there was a stretch where he wasn't on time to do that. It gives us the power threat that he is, more readily available."

Drew not changing his swing for Fenway

TB@BOS: Drew drives in insurance run with RBI single

BOSTON -- On Tuesday, with two men on base in the second inning of Boston's 6-2 win over Tampa Bay, Stephen Drew hit a ball as hard as he has in a while, a straight blast to the warning track in center field.

Drew knew he hit the ball well, but it wasn't hit well enough for Fenway Park. Desmond Jennings caught it a few steps in front of the wall that sits 420 feet from home plate.

At another park, maybe it's a home run. Although Drew has hit for a higher average at Fenway than on the road this season, he's hit just two homers in 140 home at-bats while cranking three in 101 at-bats on the road.

Because Drew is a left-hander with natural pull, his power has been a tough fit for the historic Boston park.

"That's a good swing," Drew said of his loud out on Tuesday. "Overall, looking back at that, I had a good swing at itThat's Fenway, though. You have the 310 [feet to left field] that plays pretty good to right-handers -- and left-handers if you didn't hit the ball quite as good.

"Right field, though, that's a big yard out there."

As far as power goes, Fenway hasn't treated Drew too well. Of his 82 career home runs, 10 would never have left the yard if they had been hit at Fenway Park, according to ESPN's Home Run Tracker.

But Drew has found success in other ways, using the triangle to help smack a few of his six triples, all of which came at home. Rather than try to change his swing to hit more opposite-field shots against or over the short porch in left field, Drew would rather stick with his own approach.

"You can't control it once it leaves the bat," he said.

"His swing is built to be straightaway to the pull side," manager John Farrell said. "It's not so much an inside-out swing. The one thing we don't want to do is look to tailor his swing just because of this ballpark, and then it might take away from other strengths that he does have."

Drew, who for reasons he can't explain has always been a better second-half hitter, was 1-for-9 entering Wednesday since returning from the 15-day disabled list. He had gone 10-for-27 with six extra-base hits in seven games before going down with a hamstring injury on June 28.

"I was feeling really good right before I got hurt," he said. "It's kind of frustrating when you go through it. I felt really good, and you kind of lose some of that rhythm.

"It's coming around. I'm not saying it's quite there, but it's feeling better."

Worth noting

• Clay Buchholz threw from 90 feet on Wednesday with increased intensity and felt good afterward, according to manager John Farrell. Buchholz estimated that he will return to the active roster in time to make four or five starts during the regular season. And although Farrell wouldn't commit to a time estimate, he did call Buchholz's most recent progress a move in the right direction.

• Farrell texted Andrew Bailey on Wednesday afternoon before the hurler underwent season-ending surgery. Asked if Bailey texted him back, Farrell joked, "Yeah, but it was under that first phase of anesthesia, and it wasn't legible."

• Because of an off-day on Monday, Farrell will probably push everyone in the rotation back one day, giving the whole staff an extra day of rest.

• Center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury, who had been held out of the starting lineup on Tuesday, stayed on the bench late in the 6-2 win over the Rays while Jonny Gomes was inserted as a defensive replacement for Mike Carp. Farrell said that was simply to ensure Ellsbury had a full day off his feet. Ellsbury was back in the lineup for Wednesday's game.