It was the loudest crack of the bat David Price has heard from an opposing hitter, yet the ball didn’t leave the ballpark. Jackie Bradley Jr. made sure of that.
On Sunday night at Fenway Park, Price faced Yankees slugger Aaron Judge with one out and a runner on first base in the the eighth inning. The Red Sox led, 3-0. As Price neared his second shutout of the season, Judge belted a 95 m.p.h. fastball high into the air.
Fortunately for Price, the ball was hit to the farthest part of the ballpark, with the wind slightly blowing in. He didn’t think any of those factors mattered.
“I didn’t think it was going in the bullpen,” Price said last night. “I thought it was going to hit the jumbotron, to be honest.”
Three steps into his route, Bradley knew he had a chance. He had deliberately played Judge, the majors’s leader with 30 home runs, 336 feet away from home plate. Bradley read the ball’s trajectory and sprinted toward the right-center field wall, where the wall slants at about 8 feet tall. As the ball hung in the air, Bradley slowed his steps and jumped off two feet. He nearly extended his left arm fully over the wall and snagged the ball.
He landed, crow-hopped, and launched a one-hop throw to Red Sox first baseman Mitch Moreland, nearly forcing a double play.
“The wall is slanted downward, so I don’t want to go to the front part of the wall where it is shorter because I wouldn’t be able to get to it,” Bradley Jr. said. “But I also don’t want to be on the deeper part of it because then I can’t reach my arm over. So it’s one of those things where you try to gauge it as best as you possibly can, and try to make a timely leap.”
The crowd erupted with oohs and aahs. Judge plodded to the Yankees dugout, his head turned toward the jumbotron to watch the catch for a second time. Price chuckled and pointed to Bradley.
Red Sox reliever Matt Barnes watched the play up close in the bullpen. After raising his arms in celebration, he moved them to his head, shocked by Bradley’s incredible snag.
“I didn’t know what else to do,” Barnes said. “I was just like, ‘Oh my God. He caught it. I was like, that’s incredible.’ ”
MLB.com’s Statcast measured Judge’s blast at 107.5 m.p.h., with a 94 percent hit probability. The warning track in right-center field is extended because of the triangular nature of the wall, giving Bradley less of an idea where he stood related to the wall. It didn’t matter.
Bradley, who just missed winning the Gold Glove voting last season, has made these types of catches throughout the season. On May 19, Bradley Jr. robbed Athletics first baseman Ryon Healy of a walk-off home run. Healy sympathized with Judge after watching Bradley’s latest notable snag.
“I think being there day in and day out, I get spoiled and expect stuff like that,” said right fielder Mookie Betts, who won a Gold Glove last season. “It was great. It actually made the hair stand up on my arms because it was electric. That was a fun moment to be a part of.”
Bradley said he ranks Sunday’s catch in the top five of his career. He received congratulatory text messages from family and friends after the game, while some former teammates joked that they weren’t as impressed.
He grew up emulating Ken Griffey Jr., Torii Hunter, and Jim Edmonds, three former center fielders who habitually robbed home runs. As a kid, Bradley’s goal in the outfield was to make as many web gems as possible.
His over-the-wall snag Sunday night was an emphatic way to close the opening series out of the All-Star break. That Bradley robbed Judge, the 2017 Home Run Derby winner, on national television was a statement in itself.
“[It was] a highlight-reel catch against probably the most [well-known] power guy in the game,” John Farrell said. “And [it was] timely — a big catch to the deepest part of the ballpark. [The catch] preserved the shutout at that point. He came up big.”