JBJ's deke for DP helps Crew's streak hit 9

Center fielder also logs RBI double; Burnes exits with trainer after strong start

July 2nd, 2021

PITTSBURGH -- Way out there in center field, turned his back and watched the baseball fly.

Then, all of a sudden, he caught it.

If you were watching the Brewers extend their winning streak to nine with a 7-2 win over the Pirates on Thursday night at PNC Park and Bradley fooled you, too, don’t feel bad. He fooled everyone in the stadium, including Bucs right fielder Ben Gamel, who hit the long fly ball in the second inning, and catcher Jacob Stallings, who started the play at first base and had already rounded second when he realized he’d been deked.

“In my head, I always envision doing deke plays,” Bradley said after the game. “Don’t let that get out, though.”

Oops. He said that to Brewers sideline reporter Sophia Minnaert on live television.

Bradley’s incredible baseball instincts produced a double play for Brewers starter Corbin Burnes when Bradley’s 86.4 mph throw all the way to first base beat Stallings to the bag. Suddenly spotted two outs in a game Milwaukee was leading, 2-0, Burnes retired Erik González to end the inning and cruised all the way into the eighth before tweaking a cranky left knee on his next-to last pitch. He abruptly departed with an athletic trainer in what Burnes and manager Craig Cousell characterized as a precautionary decision.

“On a night that we needed it,” Counsell said of Burnes, “he gave us exactly what we needed.”

And what about Bradley?

“It’s a play that really fires you up,” Counsell said. “It’s hard to do. It’s not an easy play. You see infielders try to do something like that on a base stealer, but a guy that’s got his eyes on you the whole time, that’s pretty hard to do. Pretty special.”

Also special for the Brewers: The nine-game winning streak is their longest in the regular season since 2014, and on Friday they’ll go for their first 10-game spree since 2003, when a 68-94 team managed to get hot in August -- including a pair of walk-off wins against the Pirates.

The only regular-season winning streak longer than 10 games in franchise history was the Brewers’ record-setting 13-0 start in 1987.

Bradley hasn’t hit much in his first season with the Brewers, though he’s been coming around, including an RBI double in a two-run top of the second inning on Thursday. But he remains as smooth as ever in center field, where he’s remained a mainstay of the starting lineup in spite of a .165 batting average entering the day because of his Gold Glove-caliber defense.

“You have to keep things simple, or at least try to,” Bradley said earlier this week. “This is a game that requires a lot of physical performance but a lot of mental focus, as well. So I'm trying to just stay focused and stay in the present. You can't change the past and obviously, I've been horrible to this point and I have to get better.”

It doesn’t get much better than what he did in the field behind Burnes, who knew that unlike in Gamel’s subsequent at-bat, when Gamel hit one out of Bradley’s reach and over the wall to cut the Brewers’ lead to 2-1, he didn’t get all of it in the second inning.

“Jackie really deked me, too, because I was like, what's happening?” Burnes said. “And all of a sudden, he caught it and fired it all the way in. Obviously he's got one of the best outfield arms in the league. I think he threw it all the way in there to first base, it was pretty impressive. It's a good play.

“Then he's in there bragging about the other guys he's done it to, so he can add that to his list of guys he's been able to deke like that.”

Bradley cited one similar play in 2014, when he was playing for Boston. He charged a ball off the end of the bat and acted as if he wasn’t going to be able to reach it. The runner he doubled off was one Derek Jeter of the Yankees.

“Off the bat,” Bradley said of Thursday’s deke, “I knew I could get to it. So as I'm approaching, I try to keep my body as turned as much as I could to the wall in order to sell like I'm going to play it off the wall. I was able to put my glove up at the last second. You don't want to give it away too soon, and I quickly kind of turned around to see where he was. And that's when I knew I had a chance of getting him at first.”

Add it to the list of highlights during the Brewers’ long winning streak.

“When everyone's out there hitting the way we are, throwing the ball the way we are, playing good defense, I think we're a really scary team,” Burnes said. “I think a lot of teams around the league know that.”