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Bradley makes Sox's '20 finale a special one

@IanMBrowne
September 27, 2020

If Sunday was the last chapter for Jackie Bradley Jr. in a Red Sox uniform, he made it one to remember. There he was in the bottom of the third inning, twisting, leaping and crashing against the wall to make a spectacular catch that took extra bases away from Ozzie

If Sunday was the last chapter for Jackie Bradley Jr. in a Red Sox uniform, he made it one to remember.

There he was in the bottom of the third inning, twisting, leaping and crashing against the wall to make a spectacular catch that took extra bases away from Ozzie Albies. There he was in the top of the fourth, hitting a laser-beam homer over the wall in center with a 104.4 mph exit velocity for a Statcast-projected 402 feet.

Free agency awaits, and Bradley (3-for-6) gave his suitors something to see and his long-time fans in Boston some moments to savor in a 9-1 victory over the Braves at Truist Field.

Box score

“I hope he can stay here,” Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts said of Bradley. “I wish him nothing but the best for him and his family. He’s one of those guys who is a true, real, great person. Those guys deserve a lot. He’s been through some rough stretches here. But in the end, the season he had was a nice season for him to have.”

Bradley started the season in a big-time hitting slump and proceeded to do what he has done many other times in his career: He turned a cold streak into a hot one.

If this winds up being Bradley’s final month for the Red Sox, it ended well; during September, he slashed .326/.423/.562 with six doubles, five homers and 11 RBIs. In the shortened season, he hit .283 with an .814 OPS.

“We all know how good he is with a glove. We don’t need to speak about that anymore because he’s obviously one of the best in the game to do that,” said Bogaerts. “For him to be consistent with the bat this year, that was really nice. He’ll be very proud looking back on the season he had. He finished on a strong note.”

Bradley 'thankful' for time with Red Sox

But the day wasn’t all about Bradley. It was also about right-hander Nick Pivetta, who could emerge into a cornerstone in the future if he pitches like he did in his two starts with the Red Sox in the final week.

Against the Braves, Pivetta went five strong innings, allowing four hits and a run while walking two and striking out five. The trade that sent relievers Brandon Workman and Heath Hembree to the Phillies for Pivetta and righty prospect Connor Seabold could wind up being a steal for the Red Sox.

The day was also about the classy Ron Roenicke, who was informed by chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom prior to the game that he won’t be returning as manager in 2021. Put in a tough spot with a roster that was depleted by trades and injuries, Roenicke kept an even-keeled demeanor all season amid difficult circumstances and went out with a win.

“I will miss Ron Roenicke for sure,” said Bogaerts. “As I said, he was a huge part of my life and I learned a lot from him. He’s a very special man. Obviously, with this now, I wish him nothing but the best.”

For Roenicke, the hardest part of the day was hearing the news from Bloom before the game that he wasn’t coming back. And the postgame scene was emotional, as several players paid tribute to their outgoing manager. However, the game, Roenicke said, felt fairly normal.

The Sox finished in last place in the American League East with a 24-36 record, but they won eight of their final 13 games.

“I’m really happy with the way we finished [the season],” said Roenicke. “I thought they really did a good job the last two or three weeks. We played good baseball. And I know some guys finished up having some nice seasons, if you call two months a season.”

Bogaerts completed his typically solid season by belting a homer -- his first since Sept. 6.

He had but one regret.

“Before the game, I was like, ‘If I hit a homer today, I’m just going to go up to him and give [Roenicke] a big hug before I go into the dugout, before I go to all the other guys.’ Everything just happened so quick and I kind of just forgot,” said Bogaerts. “I told myself, ‘I will try to hit one for him and try to win this game for him’. Obviously, it’s been a tough year, and it was rough news for sure.”

It was also a tough year for J.D. Martinez, who completed his season (.213/.291/.389) by joining the longball brigade and smashing his seventh homer of the season. But 2020 is now in the past for both Martinez and his team.

“Stay safe, guys. I’ll see you next year,” said Bogaerts, ending the final Zoom session of the regular season for the Red Sox. “Let’s go.”

Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.