There are only two other Boston players who have had more than Bradley's nine RBI in an ALCS: David Ortiz (11 , in 2004) and Manny Ramirez (10, 2007). And yet Bradley wasn't even supposed to be here on Opening Day, let alone now. When Boston signed free agent slugger J.D. Martinez to a $110 million deal in February, most folks figured Bradley's ticket out of town came with it. The Sox already had Andrew Benintendi and Mookie Betts. Now here came the new savior, Martinez.While armchair general managers across the land speculated on a new home for Bradley, he simply kept his head down and pushed forward."No, I was not worried," he says of the potential of a trade. "It was something out of my control."But I'm glad J.D. is here, and I'm glad to still be here. This is what we've all wanted to do, go to the World Series. And, ultimately, we want to win the whole thing."The Red Sox fooled people. Martinez settled mostly into the designated hitter role, and Bradley continued playing Gold Glove-caliber defense in center field. But as the team raced to a 17-2 start, Bradley was left behind. And it wasn't getting any better.One month into the season, he was hitting .195 with a .290 on-base percentage. Two months in, he was at .199 with a .292 OBP. And at the end of June, he was at .200 and .289.As one of the most popular players in the Red Sox clubhouse, Bradley's locker became a prime tourist area for empathetic colleagues: Betts, Hyers, Dustin Pedroia, assistant hitting coach Andy Barkett and, especially Carlos Zambrano Jersey , first-year manager Alex Cora. All rallied around Bradley during his darkest moments and championed him at every opportunity."Asking him, 'How ya doin'?' Things like that," Pedroia says. "He's always going to say, 'Good.' But just putting a hand on him sometimes gets him going."Frank Franklin II/Associated PressAs spring became summer, the feeling among many grew stronger: This Red Sox team was becoming a machine, and while Bradley's defense remained spectacular, patience isn't exactly overflowing for those who look helpless at the plate. Externally, the howls grew louder: Trade him. Bench him. Do something."What you're trying to figure out is how you get him out of it," says Dave Dombrowski, Boston's president of baseball operations. "Other people are saying, 'Get rid of him.' We never think that way. It's like: 'OK, we know this guy's a good player and will contribute. How do we get him out of it? Give him some days off? Rest him versus lefties?'"By late May, Bradley statistically was one of the worst hitters of any starting player in the majors. He went through one stretch that month in which he was flummoxed by fastballs, striking out 18 times in a 10-game stretch.In June, though he reduced his strikeouts, he still wasn't getting results, except in one category: Boston's analytics staff saw that he ranked toward the top of the league in percentage of hard-hit balls (defined as exit velocity at 95 mph or higher). At season's end, Bradley ranked 12th among the 338 players listed in that category, per was this nugget of information Cora took to Bradley during one of their frequent talks. The manager delivered this message: Just slow it down. The game, the at-bats, everything. Don't press. You're hitting the ball too hard not to come out of this. You're going to be fine."It's a credit to Alex to step in [at that point] and say, 'Hey , man, I believe in you,'" Hyers says. "It's how he communicates with his players."It was especially a credit because Cora is a rookie manager. His natural instinct could have been to bail on an unproductive player for self-preservation. He didn't.Cora checks in with just about every player every day鈥攅ven if it's just with a quick, cheerful hello鈥攁nd one of Cora's memorable drive-bys with Bradley came when the Red Sox were playing at Yankee Stadium in May. Memorable, at least, to Hyers, who was nearby and remembers Cora simply telling Bradley that day, 'Hey, man, I've got your back.'"Betts knew it would only be a matter of time before his friend got going. He knows him too well. The two were both drafted by the Sox in 2011鈥擝radley 40th overall, Betts in the fifth round鈥攁nd they roomed together in the instructional league that fall. Bradley was one year removed from being named the College World Series Most Outstanding Player while at the University of South Carolina."I was in awe," Betts says. "I watched the College World Series, then I walk into my hotel room in instructs, and it's Jackie there. It took me a second to kind of realize. I didn't want to be a fanboy."The two quickly developed a bond. Over the years, Betts has learned not to underestimate Bradley."He's just a normal dude, a normal dude with freakish talent," Betts says. "I acted normal with him and knew that when we stepped on the baseball field [together], he's about to show something special."David J. Phillip/Associated PressHyers, too, has history with Bradley. Now in his first season as Boston's hitting coach following two years as the Los Angeles Dodgers' assistant hitting coach, Hyers had been Boston's minor league hitting coordinator from 2013 to 2015. It was during that time that he developed a relationship鈥攁nd trust鈥攚ith Bradley.Together as this summer unspooled, they figured out Bradley needed a stronger base鈥攂etter balance in his lower half鈥攁nd to slow down the rotation of his hips. They were firing too quickly during his swings and pulling him off the ball Javier Baez Jersey , which delayed his hands enough to have a negative effect."His direction to the ball is better," Hyers says. "He has incredible hands, and I think sometimes his body gets in the way and makes it difficult for him to get to the contact point consistently."Finally, there was a breakthrough. After the All-Star Game, Bradley hit .269/.340/.487, as compared with .210/.297/.345 before it. To those watching him every day, the improvement came in leaps and bounds. To those simply looking at the box scores, well, his numbers were so low for so long that they were never going to spring back noticeably.His bat is staying in the strike zone longer now, and the lefty is driving more balls the opposite way, to left field, which is a very good sign.Nobody is expecting a future batting champion: Lifetime into this season, Bradley's slash line was .239/.318/.407, and his second-half improvement simply pulled his 2018 numbers in line with those: .234/.314/.403. And he's susceptible to left-handed pitching (.185/.260/.303 in '18), which could be problematic against Dodgers starters Clayton Kershaw, Hyun-Jin Ryu and Rich Hill in the World Series.But this also is a guy who slammed a career-high 26 home runs in 2016, punched 17 last year and 13 this year, including eight out of the No. 9 hole. And, his ALCS power show (grand slam in Game 3, go-ahead homer in Game 4) is still hot out of the oven."He's always been a guy who's dangerous when he gets going," Dombrowski says. "When he gets hot, he gets hot. Now what we're trying to do is create a time period when he gets hot鈥攏ot quite like this Kyle Schwarber Jersey , although we like this to be there all of the time鈥攂ut then doesn't drop off quite so much."We've gotten much more of that the second half of the season. When he's at the bottom of the order, he's a threat down there. And then you hit him in front of Mookie [who bats leadoff], well, people are not going to pitch around him by any means."Elsa/Getty ImagesAlready looking ahead to the middle three games of the Fall Classic in Los Angeles, where they will lose the DH because of National League rules, the Red Sox are working out the Gold Glover Betts at second base. They will have to do something, because Betts, Bradley, Benintendi and Martinez don't all fit in the outfield.That this is a conversation is an enormous compliment to Bradley, whose importance is especially intriguing now considering the trade whispers and his wretched first half."We've been through the ranks together," Betts says. "It's one of those things where I can live next to him and know we've been together every step of the way. I know what kind of player he is. He's proven it, he's proving it now, he proved it [in the ALCS]."He's not just a glove out there. He can do it all."As the champagne sprayed the other night in Houston, it sure seemed like it."All of my hitting coaches and the coaching staff, they'd sit there and watch me day in and day out, constantly put work in ... and they'd say: 'That's OK, that's OK. At the end of the year, you're going to do something special,'" Bradley says."So it's pretty cool to be sitting here with y'all and being able to hold the MVP trophy. They were right." Scott Miller covers Major League Baseball as a national columnist for Bleacher Report. Follow Scott on Twitter and talk baseball. The New York Yankees came home Monday night with the American League Division Series tied against the Boston Red Sox, but they did not perform well in their first game of the series at Yankee Stadium.The home team simply could not compete in Game 3, as the Red Sox roared to a record-setting 16-1 victory over their archrivals. The Red Sox took a 2-1 advantage in the series and can close out the Yankees Tuesday night at Yankee Stadium.Brock Holt, who did not play in either of the first two games of the series , started at second base and hit for the cycle. He became the first player in major league history to hit for the cycle in the postseason."Wow, that's the first one ever," the 30-year-old said on the TBS broadcast when he was informed of his history-making achievement. "We had a lot of fun tonight and put a lot of good at bats together."While Holt earned a spot in baseball annals with his performance, Red Sox starting pitcher Nathan Eovaldi had a magnificent game as he allowed just one run in seven innings. He threw 97 pitches in his time on the mound and 72 of them were strikes.Luis Severino had a brutal game for the Yankees, lasting just three-plus inning and giving up six earned runs before manager Aaron Boone pulled him from the game after three batters in the fourth inning.That inning proved decisive in the game, as the Red Sox stretched their lead from 3-0 to 10-0. Andrew Benintendi had the big hit when he drove in three runs with a bases-loaded double. That shot took the air out of Yankee Stadium.The crowd in the Bronx was roaring for the home team as the game started and in the early innings, but when the Red Sox took the lead and stretched it out, the noise lessened considerably as their team's chances for taking a 2-1 lead in the series disappeared.CC Sabathia is charged with keeping the Yankees alive in Game 4.Chris OMeara/Associated PressRick Porcello will take the mound for the Red Sox and the Yankees will send veteran CC Sabathia to the hill. The first pitch is scheduled for 8:07 p.m. ET, and the game will be televised by TBS.The Yankees are minus-120 favorites to win and force a decisive fifth game in Boston Thursday,according to OddsShark. The Red Sox are even money to win. Those betting on the Yankees have to risk $120 to win $100, while Red Sox backers risk $100 to win $100.Porcello had a 17-7 record this year, and the former Cy Young Award winner had a 4.28 earned-run average with a 1.18 WHIP. He struck out 190 batters in 191.1 innings.Sabathia was 9-7 with a 3.65 ERA and a 1.31 WHIP. He struck out 140 batters in 153.0 innings and gave up 19 home runs.Boone was low key after the game, and that's to be expected after his team suffered a 15-run defeat. "We have to flush this game right away," he said in the postgame press conference broadcast by the MLB Network. "We have no other choice." PredictionIt looks like the Red Sox have all the momentum after their huge win Monday night.However, it appeared the Yankees had all the momentum going into Game 3 after their win Saturday night at Fenway Park. They had displayed their power bats, and the Red Sox looked perplexed.That all changed as Eovaldi was on his game for the Red Sox, while Severino struggled badly for the Yankees.Sabathia is not likely to be intimidated by Boston's offensive show in Game 3. He will try to give New York four or five good innings and hope the Yankees can stay close.The Red Sox won 108 regular-season games and two more in the playoffs. If Porcello can give them the win and the series victory, they will be able to open the ALCS at home against the Houston Astros and ace Chris Sale will be on the mound.Look for the Red Sox to end the Yankees' season by winning the ALDS in four games.