Jackie Bradley Jr.’s face can tell you just about all you need to know about the tear he’s on at the plate. It shows a smile and a confidence that comes from desired results.
“We get to see the look on his face when he comes into the dugout, and it’s telling a great story,” Red Sox interim manager Torey Lovullo said. “That story is that he feels comfortable, and he feels good about what’s going on.”
And how could he not feel good about a day like Saturday? Bradley exploded for five hits: a pair of two-run home runs and three doubles. He finished 5 for 6 with five runs and seven RBIs in a 22-10 win over the Mariners.
The three doubles, five hits, and seven RBIs are all career highs for Bradley. Saturday was also his first career multi-homer game.
He’s hit safely in five straight games, going 13 for 22 (.591) with three home runs, four doubles, and 13 RBIs. Bradley has started the Red Sox’ last 15 games and is hitting .320 over that span.
That’s where his renewed confidence comes from.
“When you hit the ball hard, you want something to show for it,” Bradley said. “So, it’s finally showing.”
For much of the season, Bradley’s time with Boston came in spurts.
He was called up for one day in April and didn’t play. In May he was called up for 12 days and had no hits in 11 at-bats spread across six games. In late June and early July, he was up for eight days and went 4 for 19 with a homer and two RBIs in eight games (six starts).
Despite the limited time in the majors, Bradley kept his head down and kept moving forward. At the time of his call-up on July 29, he had a .305 average with nine home runs and 29 RBIs in 71 games with Triple A Pawtucket.
“Kept working. Can’t really get down,” Bradley said. “Nobody else is going to feel sorry for you, so why are you going to feel sorry for yourself? I just wanted to keep grinding, show that I can play the game at a high level, and just continue to work.”
Saturday marked exactly four years since Bradley signed with the Red Sox after they took him with the 40th overall pick in the 2011 draft. Now he’s getting another shot to show what he can do.
“We ask a lot of him, he’s up and down,” Lovullo said. “But he’s come up this last time ready to play. The approach is there, swinging at strikes. And just the overall confidence that he’s showing when he’s standing at the plate. He looks like he’s ready to do some damage.”
Bradley’s big day Saturday began with a two-run blast that landed in the covered seats in center field and put Boston up, 3-0. The home run came on an 87-mile-per-hour changeup from Seattle starter Felix Hernandez.
One inning later, Bradley doubled off Hernandez to help keep alive what turned into a second straight five-run inning. Bradley doubled again in the sixth and seventh innings, driving in three more runs.
The cherry on top was a second two-run homer, in the eighth off Jesus Sucre, a backup catcher who provided an inning of relief. Bradley’s fifth extra-base hit of the game set a Red Sox record.
Lovullo likes Bradley’s mechanics at the plate right now. He said Bradley is keeping his front foot down and is keeping his hands back with his head on the ball.
“There’s no rush or hustle to his swing,” Lovullo said. “There’s just the flow and timing that is allowing him to see what’s happening. And he’s surveying the strike zone, and that’s the most important thing to be a successful major league hitter — you’ve got to know what’s a ball or a strike.”
Now that Bradley has shown that he can put up big numbers, the next step is to keep it going. His approach is simple.
“You just try to keep swinging it,” Bradley said. “And, you just kind of ride the wave while it’s still high. And that’s all I really can do.”