BOSTON — Mookie Betts pulled into second base as Jackie Bradley Jr. made a swim move across home plate, a smooth maneuver that wound up unnecessary. One of the best anywhere, Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina, didn’t come up with the throw.
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Bradley would have been out if he had. Instead, an aggressive attempt to score the winning run from first base on a double off the Monster worked and the Red Sox walked off the Cards, 5-4.
Afterward, third-base coach Brian Butterfield and some coaches happened to hear Betts describe his view of Bradley’s sprint.
“It seems like everybody is saying we’re too aggressive and guys are getting thrown out but the risk-reward,” Betts said. “You’re going to run into some outs, but you’re going to run into something like today. It just shows you that there’s a means to an end, and we’re just going to be an aggressive base-running team.”
Music to Butterfield’s ears.
“We noticed that Mookie said, ‘There’s the means to the end,’” Butterfield said. “We kind of went ‘Oh, play that one back’ — because that’s what we say all the time.”
Butterfield and the Red Sox aren’t changing their overall approach. They’ve run into more outs than anyone. Privately, conversations have indeed been held to address individual mistakes.
Within the clubhouse, perhaps the Sox do not need outside validation. But Wednesday night’s win, another moment of resiliency overall, showed everyone the other side of the running coin: the good that can come out of stretching a defense.
“I don’t know the inner workings of the Patriots — I want to know,” Butterfield said. “But I trust that they hit on things [that go wrong] and I know that they do. They’re the benchmark for us. They are. They should be for everybody.
“You can bet your bottom dollar that when a kid gets too aggressive, then we say OK, here’s the time that you slow down.”
Before Betts’ winning double, Bradley told Butterfield that he wanted to try for home on a ball off the Monster.
Well, Bradley didn’t exactly tell Butterfield that. Standing across the diamond at first base, Bradley signaled over to his third-base coach.
“We talk about being engaged on the bases,” Butterfield said. “We have hand signals to remind [them]. Part of our job is reminding the guy before the pitcher steps on the rubber. But, we love it when players are getting Ruben [first-base coach Ruben Amaro] and I engaged by looking at us.”
Bradley was the trail runner with Betts at the plate, the Sox down 4-3 and two out. Chris Young was on second base when Betts roped a hanging breaking ball off the Monster.
“[Bradley is] over at first base and he’s looking at me and I was looking at my lead runner, and I look over at Jackie and he's going — ‘Watch the wall,’” Butterfield said, motioning with his arms the way Bradley did. “He goes, ‘Ball off the wall, you score me.’ Love that. ‘Cause you know he’s going to fight for everything that he’s got on a secondary lead. He’s gonna anticipate and he’s gonna give a great bolt.”
Bradley Jr., was probably getting waved in even without that pre-pitch conversation, Butterfield said. Because the Sox are sticking to their guns, which have at times appeared reckless.
“It’s OK,” Butterfield said of the criticism. “If you have a plan you got to stay with it, you got to do it with conviction.”
Are the Sox trying to be more aggressive compared to last year? Butterfield didn’t give a firm answer. But the way the Sox have played lately, with wins in 12 of 14, they do look like a team with fresh legs.
“There was a point last year at the midway point where I thought it was electric the way these guys were pushing it, and the way they were giving great effort and they made a lot of stuff happen with their legs,” Butterfield said. “We’re in the middle of August, the dog days of August.
"We’re in a pennant race and we’ve told the guys that we feel like we’re going that way as far as effort," Butterfield continued, pointing upward. "And we’re noticing some other people that we’re playing, it doesn’t seem like — this is when you get tired mentally. This is when you get tired physically, worn out, banged up. But you got to keep pushing it, and they’re doing a good job at doing that.”