The longest active hitting streak in the major leagues belongs to Xander Bogaerts.
The Red Sox shortstop, who singled in the first inning of an 8-2 Red Sox loss to the Rockies on Thursday, extended his run to 19 games. Bogaerts takes the temporary title from Jackie Bradley Jr., who’s 29-gamer ended in the center fielder’s 0-for-4 effort.
“It was a fun ride,” Bradley said. “To get the opportunity to go this far, it’s a blessing. I wouldn’t say I’m disappointed. Obviously you want to get a hit, but the pitchers are really good in this league. It’s tough getting a hit day in and day out. It was a pretty special run for me.”
The palpable buzz that accompanied Bradley each time he stepped to the plate began in the first inning, grew in the third and fifth, and crescendoed in the eighth with a standing ovation from a knowing Fenway Park crowd before a first-pitch changeup from Colorado righthander Jon Gray. Each time, the result was the same: an out.
A fly out to deep right field. A ground out to the pitcher. A fly out to deep center field. A ground out to the second baseman.
Mookie Betts, pinch-hitting for No. 9 hitter Christian Vazquez, stepped to the plate with two on and two outs in the ninth. Bradley, batting leadoff with Betts getting most of the night off, stood on deck. Betts extending the game would mean Bradley getting a chance to extend his hit streak.
It didn’t happen. Betts grounded out, a squibbler to first base ending the game in about as dramatic a fashion as a six-run loss can end. Bradley returned to the dugout. High-fives and pats on the backs ensued.
“You always want an opportunity, a chance,” Bradley said. “If it’s meant to be, it’s meant to be. Tonight was the night it was supposed to end.”
Bradley didn’t go down easy. He sent two balls to the warning track, including one in the fifth that pushed center fielder Charlie Blackmon to the wall.
So it goes in this game. Hitting a baseball is hard, and hitting a baseball where a defender isn’t standing is harder.
“Maybe on any given night, they could have been out of here — both of them,” Bogaerts said of the hard-hit balls.
Bradley’s other two at-bats — the ground outs — ended on changeups, a pitch Gray throws only about four times every 100 pitches this season. He threw four on Thursday, too, including those two to Bradley, down the middle and looking like fastballs until they weren’t.
“He got me out front,” Bradley said. “He didn’t really throw it often. He threw it when he needed to.”
With Bradley’s 0-fer came an inevitable question: Will Joe DiMaggio’s record of 56 consecutive games with a hit ever fall?
Bradley didn’t pretend to know. No one can. But he did point to the difference in the baseball environments that yielded DiMaggio’s precedent-setting stretch in 1941 and the one in which Bradley and his teammates operate now, one that includes more pitchers per game and more pitchers who throw hard.
“I guess it could happen. Things are meant to be broken,” said Bradley, whose streak tied Johnny Damon’s 2005 mark for fourth longest in Red Sox history. “It’s a good run. It’s tough. The game is getting a lot harder, and pitchers are getting a lot better.”
Among those congratulating Bradley in the clubhouse after the game were bullpen catcher Mike Brenly and president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski, who made sure to note a silver lining: Now, Bradley gets to watch and enjoy Bogaerts’s streak, however long it lasts.
Bogaerts finished 1 for 4, a line drive to left field was all he needed to keep his streak alive. His .347 average is tops in the American League. Bradley (.341) is second. (David Ortiz’s .337 is tied for fourth.)
Bradley doesn’t have any advice for Bogaerts, though.
“He knows what he’s doing,” Bradley said, “and he’s doing pretty well for himself.”