Breakout Bradley hits slam, nets 6 RBIs in win

Center fielder emerging as core member of thriving Red Sox offense

Breakout Bradley hits slam, nets 6 RBIs in win

BOSTON -- Jackie Bradley Jr.'s statistics are soaring at the same rate as his confidence.

The center fielder's offensive breakout continued on Monday night at Fenway Park, when he belted his first grand slam since college as part of a six-RBI night that helped the Red Sox outslug the Athletics, 14-7.

Bradley's hitting streak is at 15 games -- the longest of his career and the best current streak of any player in the Major Leagues.

This is a good time to be Bradley.

"I feel confident," said Bradley. "You want to swing it more. It's one of those things you want to keep going as long as possible. I think confidence [is the key] to anybody. Whether it's a pitcher, hitter or just in everyday life. You've got to be confident in what you're doing or more than likely you're not going to succeed."

These days, Bradley is succeeding in a big way. During the streak, he is hitting .382 (21-for-55) with four doubles, three triples, four homers, 17 RBIs and a 1.215 OPS.

Bradley Jr. plates two on single

"He doesn't expose any one side of the plate," said Red Sox manager John Farrell. "He's got very good plate coverage. He's been more aggressive early in the count when he gets a pitch up in the strike zone. He's handled it very well. And it's not any one pitch. He's taking fastballs the middle and the opposite way and pulling breaking balls. That's a good place for a hitter."

Bradley's foundation is getting stronger as he's gaining experience. His stroke is noticeably shorter than it used to be, and he's picking the right pitches to jump on.

For Bradley, the hot streak is a reward for all the times he struggled earlier in his career and rode the shuttle back and forth between Boston and Triple-A Pawtucket.

He has emerged into a core member of the team this year and has started 31 of the team's 32 games.

"He's always been a good hitter," said Monday night's starter, Clay Buchholz. "Every time he was up here and struggled and went back to Triple-A, he hit .330 down there, so you know the guy's got talent. It's just a matter of finding it here.

"Pitchers can exploit your weaknesses easier here. There's more video to prove that. He's feeling good, and that's all there is to it. When you're feeling good, the ball looks bigger, and your swing, it seems like you find the barrel more times than not, and hopefully we can keep him right there."

Over the last two seasons, Bradley has been a force with the bases loaded, going 6-for-8 with 15 RBIs.

"I guess I feel like they're not going to try to walk me. I know that they're going to try to be around the zone," said Bradley. "I've just got to put a good swing on one of their good pitches."

This time, Bradley experienced the ultimate good swing that led to a grand slam -- his first since he clubbed one for the University of South Carolina against the Florida Gators on May 22, 2010.

"It's a lot of fun," said Bradley of his first professional slam. "It was a lot of fun to be able to get some runs for our team and ultimately win the ballgame."

Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.