For Jackie Bradley Jr., difficult day offers education in execution

May 04, 2014 - 3:01 pm

It was not a stretch coming into play Sunday to say that Jackie Bradley Jr. was the player the Red Sox would most want to have at the plate with runners in scoring position. Before Sunday's series finale against the A's, Bradley was hitting .393 with a .452 OBP, five doubles and 12 RBIs in 31 plate appearance with runners in scoring position. On a team that collectively has hit .224 a little over a month into the season with runners in scoring position, Bradley has been among the few who have come through at the plate with men on base. When the Red Sox loaded the bases in the fifth inning against A's hurler Sonny Gray, Bradley was in prime position to continue his success with runners in scoring position and help the team take a 2-1 lead over Oakland. But Bradley grounded into an inning-ending double play. It did not take long for another situation to present for Bradley to redeem himself. In the seventh inning with the score freshly tied 2-2 after an A.J. Pierzynski home run, Xander Bogaerts on third base and Jonny Gomes on second and one out in the inning, Bradley stepped up to the plate again. Manager John Farrell called for Bradley to put down a safety squeeze with the go-ahead run just 90 feet away and the infield playing in. There was only one place that Bradley needed to keep the ball away from. "A little away from the pitcher," Bradley said. "Anywhere but the pitcher." But Bradley bunted the ball straight to pitcher Francisco Abad for the second out. In the midst of his first full-time season in Boston, the 24-year old is still amidst a learning process and adjusting to big league pitching. So far on the season, Bradley has shown impressive instincts and range while manning center field. At the plate, Bradley has been more of a work in progress, hitting .215 with no home runs, thirteen RBI, nine doubles, one triple and a .324 on-base percentage. While he's shown flashes of the skill set that have the Sox believing that he will eventually be a strong all-around player, those often have been followed by struggles, as was the case in his 0-for-4 performance on Sunday. Bradley says he had a bad angle on the bat when he bunted the ball back to Abad. With the infield in, it was puzzling to see Bradley bunting on a 3-1 count. Farrell defended the decision postgame. "If it's in the intended area, we felt like with the running speed with Bogey at third, we get it to the right area, it's a very difficult play to defend," Farrell said. "Left on left on that situation, [Mike Napoli] was available [as a pinch-hitter] but not looking to go there because of the way the wind was playing in the outfield in a tie game. Still felt like outfield defense was a premium. That was the call, left on left." Farrell says that Bradley's ability to bunt in the past gave him confidence in the seventh inning to call the safety squeeze. "He's shown the ability to put the bunt down," Farrell said. "It just was not directed in the right area." Bradley was visibly unhappy with his 0-for-4 performance, which also included a pivotal fielder's choice in the 10th inning in which Bradley's grounder directly to first baseman Daric Barton resulted in Will Middlebrooks being cut down at third base. After the game, Bradley took full responsibility for the double-play and failure to put down a bunt. "We didn't take advantage of the opportunities that we had presented," Bradley said. "I feel like I'm one of the main ones that didn't take advantage of it."