BOSTON -- Every time you think Jackie Bradley Jr. can't outdo himself on defense, he makes a jaw-dropping grab like the one that happened in the third inning of Boston's 3-0 win over Minnesota on Sunday at Fenway Park.Bobby Wilson led off with a drive that seemed sure to be
BOSTON -- Every time you think Jackie Bradley Jr. can't outdo himself on defense, he makes a jaw-dropping grab like the one that happened in the third inning of Boston's 3-0 win over Minnesota on Sunday at Fenway Park.
Bobby Wilson led off with a drive that seemed sure to be a double to the gap in left-center. But Bradley got a good read on the liner and sprinted there in time for a sprawling, tumbling catch on the warning track.
Upon landing, Bradley's contorted, tumbling body crashed into the base of the scoreboard on the Green Monster. Not only did he hang on to the baseball, he also avoided injury.
"I was playing in the opposite gap just a little bit, not much, and just tried to take a pretty direct angle toward it. Started getting closer and thought I had a chance," said Bradley.
And usually when Bradley has any kind of chance, he makes the play.
"I heard Mookie talking about it and how we don't really get surprised anymore," said Blake Swihart, who made his first career start at third base. "That one right there was impressive. Everybody got surprised. That guy is amazing out there."
According to Statcast™, Bradley traveled 78 feet in 4.4 seconds. It was a 4-star grab with a catch probability of 42 percent. Bradley has eight 4-star catches this season, tying him with Ender Inciarte (Braves) and Delino DeShields Jr. (Rangers) for the most in MLB this season.
"That was pretty cool," said Red Sox slugger J.D. Martinez. "I think if that wall wasn't there, it would have made it look a lot easier. But with the wall there, it kind of shows the difficulty of that play. I mean, he's a great center fielder. Sometimes he gets credit, but he doesn't get as much as he deserves almost."
All things considered, it was one of the most spectacular grabs in MLB this season.
"We feel that he's the best defensive center fielder in the big leagues," said Red Sox manager Alex Cora. "To see him play this way, throwing people out, the jumps, and you see the joy now, you see him smiling on the field. He's doing outstanding. And the fact that he dives and he doesn't crush the wall, he's able to get up, and he'll be there in the lineup tomorrow because he didn't bang the wall. That's impressive."
How does Bradley avoid getting scraped up?
"I think I take some calculated risks," Bradley said. "But I'm always very ... aware of my surroundings. I pride myself on knowing where the wall is. And knowing that, I had enough room to make the play. I'm sure I'll have a few bumps and bruises, but I'm all right."
Red Sox right-hander Nathan Eovaldi, in the midst of his debut for his new team, clapped into his glove to applaud Bradley.
Bradley got a thunderous ovation from the Fenway faithful after the thrilling catch. He got another loud hand when he came back to the dugout after the inning.
"I didn't actually see it," said Bradley. "I think I heard it more than anything. Making sure I acknowledge my teammates. They always get on me if I don't acknowledge them. I wanted to make sure I did that first. It was cool to be able to make a big-time play like that for Nathan."
Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.