Closing Time: Jackie Bradley Jr., John Lackey lead Red Sox past Rangers

April 07, 2014 - 6:17 pm
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THIS was the Jackie Bradley Jr. who set the world on its ear in spring training in 2013. THIS was the Jackie Bradley Jr. whom the Red Sox hoped to see this spring but who was nowhere to be found while Grady Sizemore exploded onto the scene. Bradley had perhaps the best game of his major league career in the Red Sox' 5-1 victory over the Rangers on Monday, making the sort of two-way impact that established him as one of the Red Sox' best prospects in the less than three years since the Sox drafted him. He started in right field and made a pair of sensational catches, first getting a great jump on the way to an inning-ending sliding catch on what would have been a run-scoring hit by Donnie Murphy. Then, on a J.P. Arencibia launch toward the right field corner in the third, he got an amazing jump and ran in a straight line with his back to the plate and stuck out his glove in time to rob the Rangers catcher of extra bases. But on this night, he changed the game not just with his glove but also his bat. In the bottom of the second, he got the Sox on the board (with their first lead of a homestand that is now four games old) by lining a two-out single to center on a 94 mph fastball from Texas starter Tanner Scheppers, just the fifth two-out hit with runners in scoring position by a Sox hitter this year. After the Rangers came back to tie the game in the top of the fourth, Bradley once again put the Sox ahead by lining a run-scoring single to left. He also added a bunt single in the eighth that contributed to a three-run rally that blew the game open. This was the approach that the offensive approach that the Sox believe can make Bradley an excellent hitter -- the ability to spray line drives from line to line with some gap power while forcing pitchers to throw strikes permitting him a chance to post strong batting averages and on-base numbers. Bradley didn't show those abilities in the spring, when his swing often got long as he seemed intent on hitting for power. But now, at a more important time, with an unexpected season-opening job in the big leagues due to the injury to Shane Victorino, Bradley is displaying his considerable talents at a most opportune time for the Red Sox. The victory allowed the Sox to halt their three-game losing streak. WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX -- Bradley had his fifth career multi-hit game. -- John Lackey delivered a second straight powerful outing to open the year, firing seven innings in which he allowed just one unearned run on five hits (four singles and a triple) while striking out five and walking two. Lackey is now 2-0 with a 1.38 ERA, 11 strikeouts and three walks in his two starts. -- Grady Sizemore continued to show no hesitation on the field. The center fielder crashed head first into the padding at the wall in center field in an unsuccessful attempt to haul in Shin-Soo Choo's triple, and then made an impressive diving catch in the next inning. Sizemore went 2-for-4 with a double. -- A.J. Pierzynski had his first multi-hit game with the Sox, going 3-for-4 and helping to initiate both Sox rallies. His hit-and-run single to left (on a pitch that was several inches outside) in the second positioned Bradley to drive in the Sox' first run, while his single to center (and advance to third on Jonathan Herrera's single) put him in position to score on Bradley's second RBI single. He entered the contest with two hits in his Red Sox career; he exceeded that by one on Monday. -- Mike Napoli went 3-for-5, and showed a sound two-strike approach in shooting a single to right field in a 2-2 count. WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX -- The Sox continued to squander scoring opportunities, turning their 11 hits into just two runs thanks to a 2-for-10 performance with runners in scoring position. The team left 10 runners on base. -- David Ortiz represented a study in frustration in the batter's box, as he saw some pitches to hit but could do nothing with them. The designated hitter went 0-for-5 with a punchout. -- Dustin Pedroia likewise went 0-for-5, as his season-opening six-game hitting streak reached its terminus. Pedroia left seven men on base. -- Pierzynski saw a John Lackey fastball clang off his glove in the top of the fourth inning, permitting the two runners on base to advance and ultimately resulting in an unearned run when Adrian Beltre -- on third instead of second due to the passed ball -- scored on a sac fly. Pierzynski has appeared stiff at times behind the plate in the early going.

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