JBJ an MVP: Jackie Bradley Jr. wins ALCS honor for Red Sox

HOUSTON (AP) — Jackie Bradley Jr. had only three hits in the AL Championship Series. He certainly made them count.

Batting at the bottom of the order, Bradley homered twice and drove in nine runs to win Most Valuable Player honors as the Boston Red Sox powered their way past Houston and into the World Series.

Bradley connected for the go-ahead hits in two Boston wins and a game-sealing grand slam in another. He was selected ALCS MVP after the Red Sox clinched the pennant with a 4-1 victory over the Astros in Game 5 on Thursday night.

“It’s amazing,” Bradley said. “This is what we set out to do when we come to spring training. And we battled — we’ve been battle-tested, played against a lot of great ballteams. This is definitely a special moment.”

Even though the center fielder hit only .200 (3 for 15) in the best-of-seven playoff, Bradley was a big reason Boston knocked out the defending champions after losing to the Astros in the Division Series last year.

Bradley had the fewest hits and lowest batting average for any position player to win MVP of a league championship series. But he delivered a three-run double and a two-run homer to go with his clutch grand slam.

“There’s nobody on this team that I can think of in baseball that deserves it more than Jackie. Just, one, the player that he is and, two, more importantly, the person that he is. He continues to work. He continues to grind,” said Red Sox pitcher David Price, the Game 5 winner. “He continues to push forward through everything that he has to go through. Watching him line out, hitting balls 100-plus miles an hour, routinely this year and last year, to see him get that MVP award, to get those big hits, I’m so pumped for him.”

The Red Sox are going to the World Series for the first time since 2013, when they beat St. Louis in six games. They host Game 1 on Tuesday night at Fenway Park against the Los Angeles Dodgers or Milwaukee Brewers.

When Boston last played at home in Game 2, after losing the ALCS opener, Bradley’s three-run double off the Green Monster in the third inning put the Red Sox ahead to stay at 5-4 on the way to a 7-5 victory.

After the series shifted to Houston for Game 3 on Tuesday, Bradley’s slam capped a five-run eighth against closer Roberto Osuna in an 8-2 win. Bradley homered again the next night in Game 4 with a two-run shot in the sixth that made it 6-5 — a game Boston won 8-6 to get within one victory of clinching.

The Red Sox are 14-0 this year, including the postseason, when Bradley homers.

“The confidence has always been there, I think from the day the season started, no matter how much he struggled or not,” teammate Xander Bogaerts said. “And I think it’s just good to see the results coming in big situations for us and helping us win games.”

The 28-year-old outfielder, chosen by the Red Sox with the 40th pick in the 2011 amateur draft, is best known for playing outstanding defense in center. But he became the first player in postseason history with three consecutive multi-RBI games from the Nos. 8 or 9 spots in the lineup.

“I felt good. I think it kind of just all boils down to having a game plan and obviously executing,” Bradley said. “You can have a game plan but sometimes it might not work out. But as a batter you want to swing at good pitches. You want to swing at pitches you can handle.”

During the regular season, Bradley hit .234 with 13 homers and 59 RBIs in 144 games. He was batting .198 on July 7 before surging in the second half.

“He’s a different hitter. Halfway through the season he found it, he found his stroke, he’s staying through the ball,” manager Alex Cora said before Game 5. “He’s hitting the ball in the air. He’s going the other way. And we know he’s going to swing and miss. We can live with it. But the quality at-bats have been great.”

And now, JBJ is an MVP.

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