BALTIMORE — It doesn’t get any closer to home than Baltimore for Jackie Bradley Jr.
Whenever the team plays at Camden Yards, his family makes the trip up from Prince George County, Va. You could hear his mother, Alfreda Hagans, beneath the press box after Bradley Jr. recorded his second hit of the game Friday. Despite the 11-2 loss, arguably the Sox’ worst of the season, it didn’t stop his mother’s voice from echoing throughout the stadium until the final out.
Afterward, he posed for pictures with his two nephews and brother, who also made the 2-½ hour drive. Saturday, Jackie Bradley Sr. made the morning drive to see his son. Seated behind home plate, the elder Bradley watched his namesake record six RBIs by the fourth inning on a pair of three-run homers off Orioles’ Tom Eshelman, going 2 for 5 in a 17-6 Red Sox romp.
It was Bradley’s fourth multi-homer game of his career and his first of the year. He picked the right time to do it.
“It’s a lot of fun,” Bradley said of his performance with family in attendance. “It kind of reminds you of playing back in like high school ball. Family is always there and people that grew up with you. Not only was my family here, but I had people here from my high school that came out. It was pretty cool to be able to have a performance like that for them.”
The Sox put up five runs in the second inning against Eshelman. Christian Vazquez singled, scoring J.D. Martinez. Then Bradley’s three-run homer later in the inning scored Vazquez and Andrew Benintendi.
But there’s always one inning or pitch this season that turns a good outing into a bad one for Rick Porcello, who took the hill Saturday night. You saw it in his start against the Detroit Tigers recently. He was cruising, yielding just two runs in his first five innings, but in that sixth, he surrendered an additional four runs to bring his earned-run total to six on the day.
He held what was supposed to be a comfortable lead Saturday, but in the third inning it imploded for the right-hander. Baltimore’s Trey Mancini doubled to score Richie Martin and Renato Nunez belted a three-run homer to pull the Orioles within one. Later on that inning, Chris Davis’ RBI single tied the game, 5-5.
“I’m more than frustrated inside,” Porcello said. “I promise you, I’m doing everything I can physically and mentally to get it right and I just have to keep grinding. Trust me, I want the results more than anybody. They’re just not coming right now.”
Yet the Sox’ offense, led by Bradley, proved too strong to let this one slip away. Mookie Betts hit a two-run homer in the top of the fourth inning that put the Sox back on top, 7-5. Then Martinez doubled to drive in a pair of runs, increasing the Sox lead to 9-5. Vazquez drove in another run. Then came Bradley again, who crushed his second homer of the evening and put the Sox ahead, 13-4.
“We always talk about it,” Cora said. “It takes one swing. It’s always when he hits the ball to the opposite field. I’m glad he swung the bat the way he did today, and hopefully we can build from that one tomorrow.”
Bradley Sr. was at a loss for words to describe his son’s performance. Sure, he’s seen him have them before in all the years he’s seen him play, but to do it on this stage — against the Orioles — was still a surreal moment.
“You never know what your kid is going to do,” Bradley Sr. said as he waited for his son after the game in one of the common areas at Camden Yards. “It’s unbelievable. I don’t know what to really to say.”
The Sox tacked on three more runs in the fifth to increase their lead to 16-5. It was the most runs the Sox had scored all season. Their previous high was 15 against the Chicago White Sox. Porcello then gave up another homer in the bottom half of the fifth to Anthony Santander. In five innings, Porcello allowed six earned runs on 11 hits and inflated his ERA to 5.61.
Nonetheless, the Sox lead was too large and the bullpen worked four scoreless innings to seal the win. The last one to leave the field was Bradley, whose releatives and friends cheered from the stands as he disappeared beneath the dugout and headed back to the visiting clubhouse.
“It’s always good to have a great support system,” Bradley said. “When you’re going through things, they still have your back.”
Bradley knows the Red Sox still have their backs against the wall. So, for all the special moments he authored for his friends and family this weekend, Bradley knows the Sox face a daunting upcoming schedule.
“We definitely want to be able to win,” Bradley said. “We just have to go out there and play like we know we can. We have some good opponents coming up. We know how crucial these games are.”