In the Orioles' bullpen, Branden Kline stood and braced himself, arms spread, for Trey Mancini's 11th-inning drive to bounce right to him once it cleared the fence.
Running to first base after lining a ball that under so many circumstances would have been a walk-off, 11th-inning home run, Mancini braced himself for a far worse fate: a home-run robbery by Red Sox center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr., this one propelling Boston to a 2-1 win in a thriller Wednesday night at Camden Yards.
"It’s one of the worst feelings you can describe, but I didn’t get my hopes up too much," Mancini said. "I’ve hit too many balls to center that I thought were hits when Jackie’s playing center that he comes down with, so I didn’t really get my hopes up too much.
"I didn’t want to get too excited until it went over the fence. It was an amazing catch. I mean, what else can you say? It was game on the line, tie ballgame, 11th inning. Just a great catch. And it really stinks to be on the losing side of it and think you hit a walk-off, but you’ve got to tip your cap to him there. That was insane.”
Mancini did just that after Bradley came back into play with the ball, having Superman-ed the wall, and rightfully so. His reaction of respect was something he said he was obligated to do for a play like that. So many others in an Orioles uniform felt the same way.
Manager Brandon Hyde, asked about the catch, simply laughed before taking a sip from his paper cup, exhaling, and proclaiming it an "incredible catch.”
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"You tip your hat to the guy making a play like that," Hyde said. "I can't remember the last time I saw a catch like that — in that spot, game-saving. That was phenomenal."
Kline, while noting that other relievers scrambled out of the way as Mancini's 102-mph drive approached, said it looked like it was carrying enough to get out.
"I put my hands up [wide] to try and brace myself in case there's a bounce, and Jackie comes up on the wall, fully extended, and catches it, and I'm like, 'What the heck just happened?' What a phenomenal catch. He's a great defender. At the time, I thought Trey got it, which he did, but he made a heck of a grab. That's a tough one."
Bradley didn't have much time to get back to the wall and set himself, so he essentially reached over the while bellying up to it. Kline's view was, well, of "a lot" of Bradley.
"I don't know if he made eye-contact with me or was looking in my general direction, but it felt like his entire torso was over the wall," Kline said. "At one point, it felt like he was almost in the bullpen. ... He used all the leverage he could up against that wall — just to be able to fully extend. Literally, half his torso is over the wall. It was pretty impressive."
If Bradley did in fact take a look out at Kline in the bullpen, he'll have seen the rookie reliever with his mouth agape in disbelief when Bradley took the win away from the Orioles. Kline saw the pictures of his reaction behind an outstretched Bradley floating around the internet after the game, and knows it's the type of play — and reaction — that won't go away any time soon.
"I'm sure I'll be seeing that a lot the next week or so on ‘SportsCenter’ or something like that," Kline said.