Sale and Bradley Get Red Sox To .500

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After his tremendous game saving catch in the 11th inning last night in Baltimore, I revisit an article posted last year in which I make the case for Jackie Bradley Jr.’s importance to the Red Sox.  I also look at the dominant performance by Chris Sale in my latest Red Sox Column to be Named Later.

Photo courtesy of nbcsports.com

No Glove, No Love

Rarely has a Red Sox player elicited such a disparity of emotions as Jackie Bradley, Jr.  Bradley is the poster child for streaky hitters.  He has had long stretches in which he appears to have no idea what he is doing at the plate.  Bradley has struggled for much of the season to get his average above the Mendoza line.

One thing that has been a constant throughout all of Bradley’s offensive struggles is the brilliance with which he plays center field.  You can throw out all the defensive metrics that have been developed and just believe your eyes.  Bradley is an elite defensive player, the rarest of players who can win you a game with his glove alone.

Not only does Bradley make difficult catches look like a can of corn, he routinely flags down balls in the gap and over his head and turns what look to be sure extra base hits coming off the bat into outs.  If you don’t think this has a major impact on a game, you simply don’t understand the sport.  The difference between having a runner on second or third and having the bases empty takes a tremendous amount of stress off a pitcher, not to mention the additional pitches that must be thrown.

The Red Sox outfield of Bradley, Mookie Betts and Andrew Benintendi may be the best in the game defensively, and are certainly the best defensive outfield I have seen from a Red Sox team since the days when Carl Yastrzemski played left field with Fred Lynn in center and Dwight Evans in right.  In this era of the launch angle approach, with players intentionally hitting the ball in the air to beat infield shifts, defense in the outfield takes on even more significance.

Shop the Mother's Day Collection at MLBshop.comOnce again this year Bradley, despite an allegedly retooled swing, has opened the season in a dreadful slump.  Bradley is only hitting .142 this season, and has no home runs in 106 at bats.  He is batting .062 over the past week and is showing no signs of breaking out.  But whether he does or not, I have seen enough of Bradley’s defense to continue to pencil him into the lineup on a regular basis for just his glove alone.  He is simply that important to this team.

Sale Day

The Red Sox sent Chris Sale to the mound with a chance to finally get their record to .500 for the first time since the second game of the season.  With the bullpen taxed from the previous two games in which regular starters could not make their start, it was important for Sale to get deep into the game to give the Red Sox a chance to pick up a series win over the cellar dwelling Orioles.  Sale did that, and then some.

Sale showed flashes of his old form last night, dominating the Orioles for eight innings.  While he was unable to pick up the win, he kept the Red Sox in the game as they were only able to plate one run of their own thanks to a Mookie Betts home run.  Sale carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning before having it broken up, and eventually giving up a single run.  When he was done he allowed only three hits and struck out 14 with no walks.  Of his 108 total pitches in the game, 80 were for strikes. 

Sale’s slider was biting last night, and his fastball hit the mid 90’s.  His performance was exactly what the Red Sox needed to finish up the road trip.  Hopefully we see more of this Chris Sale as the Red Sox look to continue their move up the standings in the AL East.


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Boston Sports Syndicate: Sale and Bradley Get Red Sox To .500
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