Jackie Bradley

Paul Rutherford/USA Today Sports

When Jackie Bradley hits, even just a little, the Red Sox are basically unbeatable

John Tomase
August 17, 2018 - 10:27 pm

The Red Sox offense may center around Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez, but it's at its best when Jackie Bradley is doing his thing on the margins.

The oft-maligned center fielder may not be a consistent offensive threat, but when he does produce, the Red Sox are nearly unbeatable.

On Friday night against the Rays, Bradley delivered what we've come to expect -- a tumbling highlight-film catch in center field -- as well as the part of his game that's considered pure bonus.

He went 2-for-4 with an RBI double in Boston's 7-3 victory, helping the Red Sox overcome a 3-0 deficit en route to their league-leading 87th victory and 12th win in 14 games.

The numbers don't lie. The Red Sox improved to 14-1 when Bradley records at least two hits and 47-13 when he produces at least one. Those are winning percentages of .933 and .783, respectively. When he goes hitless, the Red Sox are "only" 31-18, a .633 winning percentage that would translate to 102 wins over a full season. So yes, these numbers are all relative.

Still, there's little doubt about Bradley's impact as a lineup lengthener. Betts, Martinez, Andrew Benintendi and Xander Bogaerts make the Red Sox dangerous. Production from Bradley, Ian Kinsler, and infielder Eduardo Nunez makes them unfair.

That hasn't stopped Bradley from becoming a lightning rod, especially on a team that has given us relatively little to complain about en route to the best start in franchise history.

Even after his solid night, Bradley is only hitting .222 with a .698 OPS. He's got 11 home runs -- down from a career-high of 26 in 2016 -- and his average and OPS have declined for three straight seasons.

But he's still a weapon. With the Red Sox trailing 3-2 in the second, he raced straight back to the wall to make a leaping catch on Tommy Pham before tumbling and rolling into the padding.

He then stepped to the plate with two outs in the sixth and the Red Sox leading by a run and ripping an opposite-field double high off the Monster to score Blake Swihart. It missed being a home run by a matter of feet.

Offensive stars abounded in this one. Mookie Betts scored his 100th run of the season. J.D. Martinez set a career-high with his 105th RBI. And shortstop Xander Bogaerts continued pulverizing Tampa pitching with two doubles and a triple.