BOSTON (CBS) — Thanks to Yoenis Cespedes, outfield assists are all the rage these days. The Oakland A’s outfielder made not one but two stunning throws from left field this week, which spread like wildfire across the Internet, leaving millions of fans in awe of the power of the Cuban’s right arm.
Well, on Thursday night at Fenway Park, rookie center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. showed that he’s got a cannon of his own.
With one on and one out in the seventh inning, and the Red Sox leading 5-2, Jon Lester threw a 2-1 fastball up and in to left-handed hitter Michael Bourn.
Bourn put a charge into it, sending a fly ball deep to the base of the Green Monster in left-center field.
Bradley, who was positioned a bit shallow on the play, broke back toward the wall and made the catch in a full sprint while running toward the Monster.
The catch itself was impressive enough, but Bradley very quickly turned toward the infield and saw that Mike Aviles, who had been on first base, was well past second on the base paths.
Bradley used his arms to stop himself against the wall before planting and throwing to first base. He got the ball to Mike Napoli on one hop, and after Napoli took a step off the bag to make sure he could secure the throw, he quickly stepped on the first base bag to retire Aviles and end the inning.
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Though Bradley’s throw didn’t quite reach its target without hitting the ground, the case could be made that his play was actually better than both of Cespedes’ highlight-reel plays. On both of Cespedes’ plays, they were made possible by his own mistake. The first throw came after Cespedes misplayed a routine base hit, kicking the ball into the corner before unleashing the 300-foot throw to home plate. The second throw came after Cespedes misplayed a bouncing ball off the wall in the left-field corner, thereby inviting the not-exactly-speedy Pujols to try to leg out a triple. Cespedes then unleashed another missile from left field to gun down Pujols at third base.
In Bradley’s case, his only mistake was not breaking back to the wall immediately after contact, which made the catch more difficult. That late break also likely contributed to Aviles’ believing he had a chance to score from first on the play, which therefore allowed Bradley to double the runner up at first base. (Bradley also showed off his arm on national TV earlier this year.)
“At first I thought he got jammed, so I started kind of breaking in a little bit and then realized that it wasn’t going to fall in front of me, so I sprinted back,” Bradley explained after the Sox’ 5-2 win. “I knew it was going to be another close-to-the-wall-type play, but I didn’t think that I had too much to worry about. I pretty much counted my steps before going up for it. I kind of figured, once you [as a fielder] make an initial read and the base runner sees that it’s the opposite, I knew Mike was going to pretty much keep going. So I just made the catch and tried to make a strong throw back to first.
“I had time to have the wall stop me, but other than that I just saw where Mike was and just tried to fire it up throw and hopefully didn’t overthrow.”
The play was certainly appreciated by Lester, who allowed just one earned run over 7 2/3 innings.
“That’s huge. That’s an unbelievable play,” Lester said. “I don’t know if you can throw a further ball in that outfield, and he one-hopped Nap. So that was huge, especially for me, I was kind of grinding in those innings. It’s big. Jackie’s done a great job for us all year in center field, running down balls that really nobody should run down.”
Manager John Farrell is well aware of the strong arm possessed by Bradley, but even he didn’t think the rookie would make that throw.
“Not from that part of the ballpark,” Farrell said when asked if he thought the throw was possible. “To one-hop the first baseman when he’s got his back running away from the play, to turn and fire a strike … an impressive play all the way around.”
In a week where Cespedes made outfield assists cool, Bradley announced to the world on Thursday night that he can throw, too.
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