Thursday, August 18, 2011

Nava has made a positive U-turn in little time

Save for a few homering spurts during last week’s Southern excursion, Ryan Lavarnway’s bat was virtually gone from the PawSox clubhouse for the first half of August. As of Thursday, it had literally vanished with him, gone to Kansas City for the on-and-off slugger’s Major League debut.

Even in bitter defeat, 7-5, at the hands of the Columbus Clippers, Pawtucket can take comfort in the fact that Daniel Nava’s power has returned and chipped in consistently since the tail end of July.

Moments after the Sox squandered a 4-3 lead on the strength of Beau Mills’ eighth-inning grand slam, Nava cultivated the only fruitful seeds in the spontaneous rally effort. With two out in the bottom of the eighth, he launched a solo home run over the left-center wall.

While his teammates couldn’t do anything to build upon that and salvage the game, Nava redeemed himself after flying out to Columbus left fielder Chad Huffman at the left field warning track in his previous at bat. He also saved himself from what would have been his second hitless outing in three nights.

More notably, though, it was Nava’s fifth home run in his last 10 games, dating back to a dinger in Charlotte last Tuesday.

Before that game, Nava had left the yard only three times in his first 94 outings on the year. Overall, he was hitting 90-for-344, translating to a .261 batting average coupled with 26 runs batted in.

Beginning with a 2-for-3 performance that included his dinger and three RBIs, he has upped his overall average to .266, driving in nine runs over the last 10 ventures.

Nava has also enjoyed four multi-hit games in his last 10 played. In his first 94, leading up to Aug. 5, he had 24 to speak of and none dating back to July.

Now he suddenly trails only Lars Anderson for the team lead with 29 multi-hit bushels.

In the current month as a whole, Nava is now hitting 19-for-53 for a .358 batting average. He has hit safely in 12 of his last 14 games.

And remember, for all intents and purposes, his August started three days later than that of his teammates. For the month’s first two days, in the latter half of a four-game home set with the Louisville Bats, Nava served only one plate-appearance, drawing a pinch-hit walk and scoring a run.

Nava sat out the full length of the next game and the team had the subsequent day off before the Buffalo Bisons came to McCoy. Nava was reposted to his usual defensive spot in left field, but all but instantaneously descended from the No. 2 slot in his previous start to No. 7 in the batting order.

Tough to blame manager Arnie Beyeler for that move at the time. After all, Nava had gone 1-for-17 in the preceding seven days of action.

He would remain the seventh batter for the duration of the Buffalo series, ultimately short-circuited by a rainout. But in the three games that were played, he batted 6-for-13, garnering exactly one more hit each night than the previous.

Nava was nudged up to the sixth spot for the first installment of last week’s visit to Charlotte, but mustered only one at-bat in a game that was suspended and picked up the following afternoon.

Normalcy was almost restored for the second half of the ensuring doubleheader last Tuesday. Instead of regaining his usual second spot, Nava immediately preceded cleanup man Lars Anderson and went 2-for-3 with a two-run blast in the fifth that effectively decided the PawSox 5-1 triumph over the Knights.

That constituted his fourth dinger of the year. In a matter of nine days, he has doubled that collection to eight, all of his hits coming from the upper echelon of the PawSox batting order.

And perhaps symbolically, the youngster who has played 60 Major League games, all in 2010, figures to see his first lick of action in Boston this Saturday as part of the “Futures at Fenway” doubleheader.

Suffice it to say, if he props up this pace, the late-blooming Nava ought to see some authentic Yawkey Yard action before the 2011 campaign runs its course.