Bradley did everything he could
July, 6, 2014
By Kyle Brasseur | ESPNBoston.com
BOSTON -- Red Sox outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. did everything he could to get his team a win Sunday against the Baltimore Orioles.
He went 2-for-4 at the plate, including a career-high 11-pitch walk in the fifth, and played a key role in the Red Sox’s seventh-inning rally. He made a superb throw from center on a Caleb Joseph fly out to get Manny Machado -- who was tagging up from third -- at the plate.
And with the game tied in the top of the ninth, Bradley was there once again, leaping just in front of the wall in center to haul in what would have been an extra-base hit by Machado that would have driven in the potential winning run.
A big day for a player recently reduced to a platoon role.
“You want to help out as much as possible,” Bradley said. “When it’s your day to start, you just want to be able to perform and get the job done. If you’re not in there, then do what you can to help the team out later on in the game.”
Making just his third start in the team’s last six games, Bradley served as the Red Sox’s spark in a comeback attempt that fell just short. Despite overcoming a five-run deficit, the Red Sox lost, 7-6, in extra innings.
Jim Rogash/Getty ImagesJackie Bradley Jr.'s highlight-reel catch in the ninth kept the Sox in the game.
“It’s frustrating,” Bradley said. “We’re doing the things to get us back in the game. Pitching well, start swinging the bats, getting some runs across the board. Just wasn’t able to finish it off today.”
One could say Bradley’s throw to nail Machado at the plate started the comeback. With Burke Badenhop and Junichi Tazawa each faltering out of the bullpen, the Orioles quickly put together a four-run inning on six singles and showed no signs of stopping. Once Tazawa finally got Joseph to fly out, Bradley came up big with his throw to turn the double play and end the inning.
The play was made all the more sweet after Steve Pearce had barely beaten another strong throw from Bradley earlier in the inning to score the Orioles’ first run of the frame.
“They were both pretty accurate,” Bradley said of the throws. “I was happy to be able to get them on the second time and get some momentum behind the ball. [It] kind of kept the game in order.”
It also added to Bradley’s impressive defensive resume this season. The outfielder now has 10 assists, tying him for most in the league with Cleveland’s Michael Brantley and Oakland’s Yoenis Cespedes -- both primarily left fielders. Bradley has turned a remarkable five double plays, the most for a rookie outfielder since J.D. Drew had six for St. Louis in 1999.
“I don’t really focus on it,” Bradley said of the achievements. “I just try to make the plays for the pitchers and get the team out of the innings so we can get back up to the bat and swing it.”
Swing it the Red Sox did after that play. The bottom of the seventh was a landmark rally made up of seven hits, six of which were singles, to score five runs and erase a 6-1 deficit. The first of six singles belonged to Bradley, who has hit safely in four straight games and owns a .295 average in his last 13 games.
“The extra work that he’s been doing is starting to pay off,” manager John Farrell said. “He’s starting to reproduce a more consistent swing path.”
Bradley saved his best for last in the form of his catch in the ninth inning. Knowing the ball was going to be over his head, Bradley raced toward the wall in center. As he got close, he leaped and tried to avoid anticipated contact with the wall behind him. The end result was a highlight reel catch, one that got the crowd at Fenway on its feet in appreciation.
“They appreciate the hustle,” Bradley said. “Those type of plays are what keep us in the game and allow us to put forth our best effort.”
Bradley wasn’t the only Red Sox rookie to put forth his best effort in recent memory on Sunday. Third baseman Xander Bogaerts, who entered the game mired in a 0-for-27 slump, went 2-for-5 on the day with an RBI and run scored.
The list of firsts for the struggling Bogaerts runs long: His first multihit game since June 7, his first RBI since June 17 and his first run scored since June 20.
“He gets a bloop base hit the other way [in his first at-bat] that might take a little bit of the weight off his shoulders,” Farrell said. “It was encouraging to see the hard contact to the pull side. Despite yesterday where there weren’t the results, we saw a better approach.”
Two encouraging signs in an encouraging comeback attempt for the Red Sox.