Bradley's banner day puts him in exclusive company
By Alec Shirkey
BOSTON -- The Red Sox are suddenly red-hot, having scored 37 runs in their past two games, including an historic 22-10 clobbering of the Mariners on Saturday afternoon.
It's a tribute to the strength of the ballclub that they've done so in the two days since skipper John Farrell took season-long leave after his diagnosis of Stage 1 lymphoma -- which doctors have called "highly curable."
"It makes a lot of us feel like somebody's watching over us and giving us some good luck that we finally deserve," interim manager Torey Lovullo said. "[Friday's] news still hits hard with several of us. I don't think that'll ever go away until we know John's healthy and cured. It's going to stay with us.
"We've had a wide range of emotions, but what we've done is we've separated it at game time. We get between the white lines, we go out there and play baseball. These guys deserve a lot of credit for being able to compartmentalize and separate it."
On a day full of unbelievable offensive showings, up and down the Red Sox's lineup, it was the No. 9 hitter who once again stood out. Only this time, he was hitting like a cleanup man.
Jackie Bradley Jr. continued his blistering run as a one-man wrecking crew Saturday, crushing two home runs and three doubles and driving in a career-high seven. Bradley's five extra-base hits set a single-game franchise record and made him only the second player to produce those numbers at age 25 or younger, joining Larry Twitchell, who achieved the feat exactly 126 years ago.
Bradley, whose batting average jumped up by 129 points over the past five games, has hit .591 (13-for-22) with 11 runs, 13 RBIs, three home runs, two triples and four doubles since last Sunday. After struggling well over a year to find his form at the plate, the young outfielder's adjustments are finally paying off in the form of a much-needed breakthrough.
"Actually getting the results, hitting balls hard and having something to show for it," Bradley said. "As cliché as it sounds, when you hit the ball hard, you want something to show for it. It's finally showing."
Lovullo said he can see a distinct difference in Bradley's demeanor when he marches to and from the dugout. The conviction in his stance is plain for any coach to see and, for a player who hit .198 in 127 games last year, it's promising.
"It's a smile. It's a confident look," Lovullo said. "We've had a lot of different times with Jackie. And he's had a lot of good moments, but nothing as special as what he's had over the past week. I know the numbers dictate that it's almost equal to his career, what he's done this past week. We love Jackie, and he deserves a lot of this credit."
Not too long ago, Bradley Jr. found himself riding along I-95 between Boston and Pawtucket, floating between the Majors and the Triple-A PawSox without an everyday role with the Red Sox. The former first-round Draft pick, often reserved, focused on proving himself enough to earn another opportunity.
The struggles perhaps helped Bradley keep his excitement in check following Saturday's performance. But after the kind of game All-Stars would dream of, he couldn't hide his smile.
Even more satisfying was the fact that the offensive outburst came with former Cy Young Award winner Felix Hernandez on the hill for Seattle. Hernandez was powerless to stop Boston's early barrage, allowing 10 runs (tying a career high) and three home runs in only 2 1/3 innings.
"It's just a bunch of guys going up, having a great approach, not missing their pitch," Lovullo said. "We were having some really, really loud contact throughout the course of the game and throughout the course of [Friday's] game. Against arguably one of the best pitchers in baseball, there was no let-up by us."
Alec Shirkey is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.