BOSTON -- The most powerful man in baseball scorched one to deep right-center field on Sunday night at Fenway Park. When Aaron Judge squares a ball up in the fashion he did in the top of the eighth inning, there is usually nothing that an opponent can do about it.This
BOSTON -- The most powerful man in baseball scorched one to deep right-center field on Sunday night at Fenway Park. When Aaron Judge squares a ball up in the fashion he did in the top of the eighth inning, there is usually nothing that an opponent can do about it.
This time, though, it was Red Sox center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. in pursuit, and the stud defender raced back to make a jaw-dropping catch that punctuated a 3-0 win for the Red Sox, who secured a split of a day-night doubleheader and the four-game set against the rival Yankees. New York won the matinee by the same score.
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This was the first time in their 90 games this season the Yankees have been shut out, as they were the Major Leagues' last remaining holdout.
If not for Bradley, the Yankees would still have that impressive streak going, because Judge looked like he had a two-run homer on David Price's 95-mph fastball that would have made it a 3-2 game.
To hear the way Fenway Park buzzed after the grab was to understand how special a catch this was, as the latest indelible rivalry moment was created.
"It's one of those balls you just try to time up in the air," said Bradley. "Those are the type of plays, they rarely happen. A lot of different things got to go the right way. Gotta be just far enough over the wall, but short enough where you can grab it. And you've got to be able to get back there in time."
The blast by Judge had a 94 percent hit probability and was a perfect barrel, based on the exit velocity (107.5 mph) and launch angle (32 degrees).
According to Statcast™, such a hit is a home run more than nine out of 10 times.
"I didn't think it was going in the bullpen. I thought it was going to hit the jumbotron, to be honest," said Price. "That's the loudest ball I've heard. I'm pretty sure the wind was blowing in tonight. that's the only reason why that ball stayed in, other than Jackie. That was special."
For Judge and the Yankees, it was crushing.
"I thought it had a chance, but I just hit it to the wrong part of the park and the wrong center fielder," said Judge. "Jackie has been making plays like that for a long time."
While Bradley's enormous talent was the biggest component in making the catch a reality, his positioning helped make it possible.
Bradley normally plays 320 feet from home plate at Fenway, on average. He was stationed 336 feet away before Judge made contact.
"You know, Jackie's got such good anticipation, and his reads and his routes are as good as you're going to find at the big league level," said Red Sox manager John Farrell. "Fact is, a lot of Judge's power is to that part of the field. So in a lot of cases, power guys, we're going to try to maybe cover the territory, so you might shift a little bit more to right-center field to be able to cover the triangle and then as much as Mookie [Betts] has to cover in right. But he got right to the spot and was able to jump and time it just perfect."
Of the 189 hitters who have seen at least 1,000 pitches this season, Judge commands the farthest average starting position by center fielders at 330 feet.
At this pivotal stage in the game and Judge batting, Bradley was on high alert.
"He can go any way," Bradley said of Judge. "He's proven that countless times. He's a big, strong man, and you can't take anything for granted. If he gets the bat on the ball, it has a chance any time."
The same could be said of Bradley having a chance to make a catch any time a baseball is in flight and heading in his general direction.
"Jackie does this little thing where midway, while the ball is in the air, he starts timing it, and once I saw him start timing it I figured he had a chance to catch it. He made it look easy," said Betts.
Once Bradley came down with the ball, the players felt like fans. Reliever Matt Barnes, who was warming up in the bullpen right near the catch, first raised his arms in triumph and then clasped his hands over his head in disbelief. Price became notably animated from the mound and started laughing and talking to himself.
"It was great," said Betts. "It actually made the hair stand up on my arms. It was electric. It was just a fun moment to be a part of."
Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.