TORONTO — Jackie Bradley Jr. struck out three times and lined out during Saturday’s 7-6 victory against the Toronto Blue Jays. But the rookie center fielder had a big impact on the game with his glove.
Bradley made a running catch in the gap on a ball hit by Colby Rasmus to end the third inning and strand two runners. He made another nice catch to end the sixth inning on Moses Sierra.
In the ninth inning, with the Red Sox clinging to a one-run lead, Bradley cut off a ball to right center and held Dioner Navarro to a single. When Brett Lawrie singled with two outs, Navarro advanced only as far as second base.
Bradley also made a tough play look routine to end the game, grabbing a line drive off the bat of Edwin Encarnacion.
“Not too tricky, thankfully. Sometimes when the ball is hit that hard, it will have a knuckle to it. But this one kind of stayed true,” Bradley said. “Went back there and caught it.”
Bradley left the Rogers Centre smiling despite going 0 for 4.
“That’s big. When you don’t get it done on one side of the ball, I think it’s very vital that you at least get it done on the other side,” he said. “That’s something I’m always going to take pride in.”
Bradley gets quick jumps on balls, going in motion almost as the ball is hit. His play in center has been superlative early in the season. Clay Buchholz, who started and went seven innings for the win, said the starters have come to appreciate what Bradley brings to the outfield.
“Not many people know the game well enough to realize that if a player makes plays behind you that a lot of people in the league wouldn’t really get to, that saves a number of runs crossing the plate,” Buchholz said.
“The jumps that he gets on balls, it’s pretty amazing how talented he is at that position, just getting reads on balls in the gaps. If a few of those balls drop that I thought would drop off the bat, I definitely don’t get to the seventh inning.”
Napoli gets a day
Mike Napoli didn’t ask manager John Farrell for a day off. But he appreciated getting one.
Napoli dislocated his left ring finger April 15 and the digit is still swollen and crooked. He also has a bruise on his left knee, the result of a fastball that smacked him last Sunday.
“It helps to get that day occasionally,” Napoli said. “Just to get off your feet. I still have trouble holding the bat sometimes and this will help out a lot.”
Napoli is 11 of 35 with six extra-base hits and six RBIs in nine games since the finger injury.
“You find a way around it,” he said, looking down on his mangled finger. “We’re all going to have stuff like this throughout the season.”
Shortstop Xander Bogaerts, who is dealing with flu symptoms, also had a day off.
In his last 10 games against the Blue Jays since the start of last season, righthanded reliever Junichi Tazawa has allowed 11 earned runs on 17 hits and three walks over 8⅓ innings. That’s an 11.88 earned run average and 2.40 WHIP.
In 70⅓ innings against other teams, Tazawa has a 1.92 ERA and a 1.01 WHIP. Of the 10 home runs he has allowed in that span, seven have come against Toronto.
“They’re such a good fastball-hitting team. They know the location and the strength where Taz is typically going to go to. You get strength on strength and a few times they beat him,” Farrell said.
Tazawa allowed two runs on four hits Saturday. He had thrown 10 scoreless innings in his 11 appearances prior to that this season.
Koji Uehara also has trouble with the Jays. The home run he allowed by Jose Bautista in the ninth inning was the first in the regular season since Bautista homered at Fenway Park against him last June 30.
The run was the first Uehara had allowed this season.
Dome, sweet dome
In 13 career games at Rogers Centre, Will Middlebrooks is 17 of 51 (.333) with 10 extra-base hits, five of them home runs, and nine RBIs. He homered again Saturday. Middlebrooks is 6 of 14 with four extra-base hits and four RBIs in his last four games this season . . . Toronto starter Brandon Morrow was the first pitcher to walk eight in less than three innings since Kerry Wood of the Cubs walked eight in 1⅓ innings against the Padres Sept. 22, 2000. The last pitcher to walk eight in less than three innings without giving up a hit was Steve Adkins of the Yankees in 1990. Adkins, who pitched only five games in the majors, walked eight in 1⅓ innings in his major league debut on Sept. 12 that season . . . Toronto pitching coach Pete Walker was ejected in the third inning . . . Farrell, no fan of the replay system, won a challenge in the second inning when Jose Reyes was initially called safe on an infield hit . . . Lefthanded reliever Chris Capuano has thrown 14⅓ scoreless innings, striking out 15 . . . Dustin Pedroia has gone 143 at-bats since his last home run but is 15 of his last 47 (.319) with six doubles and nine walks . . . Buchholz is 10-5 with a 2.52 ERA in 19 career appearances against Toronto. He is 8-0 with a 1.13 ERA in his last nine starts against the Jays.