Hideki Matsui in cleanup spot against Royals, Mike Napoli on bench again
With cleanup batter Torii Hunter sitting out the third game of a four-game suspension for an argument with an umpire last week, you would think Manager Mike Scioscia would want to insert as much power into the Angels' lineup as he could.
But for the second straight game, the Angels' series opener against the Kansas City Royals in Angel Stadium, Mike Napoli, who is tied with Hunter for the team lead with 18 home runs, was not in the lineup.
Instead, designated hitter Hideki Matsui, who is struggling so much at the plate that he did not play in three of the team's previous seven games, is in the cleanup spot against the Royals. Matsui has three singles in his last 24 at-bats and is hitting .244 with 14 homers and 55 runs batted in on the season.
"He will get his at-bats," Scioscia said of Napoli, who is batting .258 with 51 RBIs and a team-high 94 strikeouts. "We're trying to get some continuity with [Maicer] Izturis in the lineup, and Erick [Aybar] and Alberto [Callaspo]. And Howie Kendrick is getting some looks at first base. This week, we've been looking at a couple things offensively."
Including Monday night, Napoli has not started four of the past five games, and Scioscia said 'situational hitting" is part of the problem. Napoli is batting only .200 with runners in scoring position.
Bobby Abreu is in the leadoff spot for the fourth straight game Monday night, Aybar is hitting second and Callaspo third. Behind Matsui is Izturis, Juan Rivera, Kendrick, Jeff Mathis and new center fielder Peter Bourjos.
With the Angels, who are nine games behind Texas in the American League West, playing Kansas City and Toronto at home this week, it might be an opportune time to pick up some ground on the Rangers, whose next eight games are against the powerful New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays.
It would help, of course, if Matsui finds the power stroke that has eluded him for long stretches this season.
"Hideki has had some soft spots in his season, but the potential is still there for him to bring the numbers we anticipated," Scioscia said. "Right now, he's a guy we need to step up and provide production."