On August 18, the Red Sox demoted rookie outfielder Jackie Bradley, Jr. to Triple-A Pawtucket. In the time since, there have been rumors that Bradley’s stubbornness while working with coaches — it was reported that he was unwilling to change his swing — contributed to his demotion.
Red Sox GM Ben Cherington put the rumors to bed, as WEEI’s Alex Speier reports:
“First of all, as far as the question about whether that was part of the decision to send him down, I can say absolutely not. The decision to send him down was based on our feeling at the time that the offensive part of the game — that he needed to develop a routine that worked for him and it was going to be easier for him to do that for some period of time in Pawtucket,” Cherington said in Yankee Stadium. I’m not a coach. I know that every player is different, is going to respond differently to guidance. We know that Jackie has had a ton of success in his life as a baseball player, at the major league level, at the minor league level. It hasn’t come as quickly for him, at least on the offensive side at the major league level, and that’s not easy for a guy to deal with. There’s never been an issue from the Red Sox’s perspective of whether he’s willing to work or whether he cares, anything like that. We’re trying to find the right way to reach every player, including Jackie, and then the player has to have a responsibility then too. That’s a relationship that we strive to reach. We want to build a good, functional relationship with any player. And if one is struggling it means we still have to work on that, but it had nothing to do with sending him down to Pawtucket.”
In 387 plate appearances at the big league level, Bradley posted a disappointing .216/.288/.290 slash line with one home run, 30 RBI, and eight stolen bases. His results have not been much better with Pawtucket. In 69 plate appearances over 14 games, he is slashing .212/.246/.273 with one home run, five RBI, and no stolen bases. Bradley is expected to rejoin the major league roster later in September, however.
World Series Game 1 was billed as a battle of aces, the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw against Chris Sale of the Red Sox. Between them, they have 14 All-Star Game nominations. Kershaw has won three Cy Young Awards. Sale could his first Cy Young Award this year. Among his 10 seasons with at least 110 innings pitched, Kershaw has never posted an ERA above 2.92. Sale has been at 2.90 or below in each of the last two seasons. The two have combined for over 4,000 career strikeouts and both have averaged better than a strikeout per inning over their careers.
And yet Tuesday’s Game 1 was anything but a pitcher’s duel between Kershaw and Sale. Though a couple of fielding mistakes weren’t of any help to Kershaw in the first inning, Red Sox batters were squaring him up good. Of the five balls put in play in the first inning, three had exit velocities of 100 MPH or higher. Of the 12 total balls put in play against him overall, five reached triple digits in exit velo.
Kershaw gave up a pair of runs in the first, another run in the third on a J.D. Martinez double to straightaway center field, and another two in the fifth. Kershaw led off the fifth by walking Mookie Betts, then giving up a single to Andrew Benintendi, ending his night. Ryan Madson relieved Kershaw and proceeded to allow both inherited runners to score. All told, Kershaw yielded five runs on seven hits and three walks with five strikeouts on 79 pitches in four-plus innings.
Sale, meanwhile, was on the hook for individual runs in the second, third, and fifth. Dodger hitters weren’t squaring him up quite as well as the Red Sox batters squared up Kershaw, but Sale was still more hittable than usual. Of the eight balls put in play against him, four were at least 90 MPH in exit velo. One of the runs was a no-doubt solo home run to Matt Kemp in the second. The Dodgers chased Sale in the fifth when he issued a leadoff walk to Brian Dozier. Matt Barnes relieved him allowed the inherited runner to score. Overall, Sale threw 91 pitches in four-plus innings, serving up three runs on five hits and two walks with seven strikeouts.
The game is now, as has been generally the case throughout this postseason, a battle of the bullpens.