Boston Red Sox center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. displayed his cannon of an arm to throw out a runner at the plate against the Minnesota Twins.
Jackie Bradley Jr. was an easy target for criticism when he was struggling to push his batting average north of the Mendoza Line. There are ways for players to contribute without a bat in their hands though and the Gold Glove-winning center fielder reminded us last night of the value he brings to the Boston Red Sox with his stellar defense.
Red Sox starter Eduardo Rodriguez found himself in trouble early when he allowed a rocket off the bat of Nelson Cruz. Right fielder J.D. Martinez overran the deflection off the wall, allowing the ball to bounce well out of his reach. Cruz coasted into second base for an easy double while C.J. Cron threatened to score from first base.
Not on Bradley Jr.’s watch.
JBJ hustled over to back up his teammate on the play. He snatched the ball as it rolled toward the infield, turned and fired a missile to home plate just in time to nab Cron.
Eddie Rosario‘s base hit to drive in Cruz would put Minnesota on the board one batter later yet the damage would be limited to that lone run in the inning. It could have been much worse. If Bradley Jr.’s throw was a hair late then the Twins would be assured of at least two runs in the inning with the potential for more since there would be one fewer out.
Extending the inning by at least one more batter would mean more pitches for Rodriguez, who ended up tossing 17 in the opening frame. Adding to that total would be a less than ideal way to start a game the Red Sox desperately needed E-Rod to go deep in following Tuesday’s 17-inning affair.
Boston’s lineup rallied to deliver a 9-4 victory, which may lead you to believe that saving one run in the first inning ultimately didn’t matter. However, we can’t bank on the outcome being the same if the Twins had piled on more runs early or if Rodriguez wasn’t able to give them seven innings.
This was the second incredible defensive play made by JBJ in as many games. Tuesday night, Bradley Jr. scaled the wall to rob Jorge Polanco of a seventh-inning double that would have put the tying run in scoring position.
The Twins would end up tying the game one inning later before going on to win in extra-innings but the acrobatic catch by JBJ seemed like a game-saver at the time.
Bradley Jr.’s throw to the plate last night was his fifth outfield assist of the season, tied for the fifth-most among American League outfielders.
His defensive instincts and gifted physical abilities save runs even if his contributions aren’t always captured by analytics. Bradley Jr. hasn’t always been treated kindly by certain advanced metrics despite that the eye test tells us he’s a great defensive outfielder. His -1 Defensive Runs Saved and -2.7 UZR suggests he’s below average but we know better than that. He won a Gold Glove last year despite posting -2 DRS as a center fielder.
These advanced metrics allow us to analyze defense in greater detail than we ever could in the past yet they are hardly perfect. Bradley Jr. is the type of player who must be witnessed to truly be appreciated.
The Red Sox wrapped up their series in Minnesota by taking two out of three from a potential playoff opponent. Bradley Jr. was a mere 2-for-11 at the plate but his teammates certainly aren’t complaining about his lack of punch in the lineup. When he’s making jaw-dropping plays with his glove to save runs, Bradley Jr. reminds us of the value he brings to this team.