Red Sox: Jackie Bradley teaches Orioles not to test his arm
By Sean Penney
Fair warning to other MLB teams – never test the arm of Boston Red Sox outfielder Jackie Bradley, Jr. The Orioles found out the hard way.
When we reflect on Monday night’s extra-innings victory in Baltimore we’ll mostly focus on the clutch hits. The bases-clearing double by Mookie Betts that gave the Boston Red Sox their first lead in the fifth inning. The Xander Bogaerts solo home run to tie the game after the lead had been squandered. Then, of course, there was the game-winning base hit by Andrew Benintendi in the 11th.
Those are highlight-worthy hits, all of which were vital to the victory. What may go overlooked but can’t be forgotten is the defensive play that saved the game.
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In case anyone has forgotten about the cannon that Jackie Bradley, Jr. has attached to his arm, a reminder was sent to the Orioles last night.
The play came with the score knotted at eight in the bottom of the seventh inning. Orioles designated hitter Pedro Alvarez smoked a line drive to the left-center gap for a base hit. The mistake made by the lead-footed Alvarez was thinking he could stretch that hit into a double.
Not on Bradley’s watch. Boston’s center fielder calmly played the ball off the wall, turned and fired a laser to second base in time to nail Alvarez to end the inning.
Think about everything that had to happen on this play. Bradley had to ensure he was in the right spot to catch the ball careening off the wall. A bounce or two on the ground prior to the ball being scooped into Bradley’s glove could have been the split-second difference between the runner being called safe or out. Without skipping a beat, Bradley had to turn and fire an accurate throw to Bogaerts, who was covering second base. The throw had to be on the runner’s side of the bag so that all Bogaerts had to do was swipe down to make the tag rather than reach across and down.
The play needed to be executed perfectly at every step, yet Bradley made it look routine.
According to Statcast, Bradley’s throw was 95.9 mph and traveled 212 feet. Most pitchers can’t throw that hard and they only have to throw the ball 60 feet, six inches. That missile was nothing out of the ordinary for Bradley, who actually had three throws from the outfield in the game that topped 95 mph.
The significance of that play can’t be overstated. Had Alvarez been safe at second base it would have given the Orioles a runner in scoring position with two outs in a tie game. We’ll never know if John Farrell would have stuck with Joe Kelly in that situation. The manager called for Addison Reed to start the bottom of the eighth inning and he immediately gave up a base hit to No. 9 hitter Austin Hays. If that scenario played out with Alvarez on second with two outs in the seventh instead of leading off the next inning then Baltimore would likely have scored the go-ahead run in a game that ultimately was decided in extra-innings.
Bradley’s six outfield assists are only the ninth most among major league center fielders, although that undersells the effectiveness of his arm. He doesn’t get the opportunity to rack up more assists because most teams know better than to run on his arm.
Occasionally a player will forget and Bradley will be forced to remind them of why he’s considered to have the best center field arm in the game.