Long, marathon games are one of baseball’s most agonizing and joyful occurrences. A game going into extras isn’t particularly rare, but then it just keeps going and going. By the 15th inning you’re obsessed with how both teams just can’t score, and you’re wondering who you are and why you’re here and what the true meaning of life is and if the game will ever, ever end.
In a marathon game, so much happens that it’s rare when you can pin the fate of the game on one particular thing. But in Tuesday night’s 19 inning (!) game between the Boston Red Sox and the Toronto Blue Jays, you can do just that. The Red Sox won in a walk-off, but they may not have gotten there without an epic outfield throw from center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr.
The game-saving throw happened in the 11th inning. The Jays had men on the corners — Jose Bautista at third and Michael Saunders at first — and Justin Smoak was at the plate. There was just one out and even a well-placed grounder to an infielder could score a run, so the Red Sox were in a tight spot.
On the second pitch of the at-bat, Smoak skied a pop-up to center field, and for a second everything seemed normal. The ball fell into Bradley’s glove to retire Smoak, and Bautista tagged up so he could try to score from third. But things were not normal, because Bradley then uncorked an absolutely ridiculous throw from center field. It was gorgeous. It was the MVP of throws.
Bradley wasn’t even in shallow center when he released the ball. He was solidly in center field territory when he did it, and the throw flew toward home plate like it was released from a super cannon. It was right on the mark: it bounced once, close to home plate, and catcher Sandy Leon grabbed it with no problem. Jose Bautista didn’t have a chance — Leon swiped him for the tag and he was decisively out at home. Plus, the inning was over — it was an outfield/home plate double play.
Jackie Bradley Jr. has a magical arm. And that magical arm stopped the Blue Jays from scoring in the 11th inning so eight innings later (almost the length of another entire baseball game) the Red Sox could finally score the game-winning run in the bottom of the 19th inning. Someone give that man a prize! (Just maybe not an Apple Watch.)
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