NEW YORK — There have been 1,562 postseason games in MLB history.
Brock Holt did something nobody had ever done: He hit for the cycle. Holt completed history in the top of the ninth inning, putting the finishing touches on the Boston Red Sox’s 16-1 victory over the New York Yankees in Game 3 of the American League Division Series, lining the first pitch from Yankees backup catcher Austin Romine into the right-field seats for a two-run homer.
The home run gave the Red Sox the largest road margin of victory in playoff history, tied for the second-largest ever (behind Boston’s 23-7 win over Cleveland in 1999) and put them one win away from advancing to the AL Championship Series against the Houston Astros.
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“This one I’ll remember for a long time,” Holt said. “Obviously, you don’t go into the game expecting to make history or do anything like that, let alone score 16 runs against a good New York Yankees team. So it was a good night overall for everyone.”
Holt is an unlikely hero. In fact, he didn’t start the first two games. But searching for more offense from the bottom of the lineup and looking to get another left-handed bat in against Luis Severino, Sox manager Alex Cora inserted Holt at second base and the No. 7 slot. Holt went 4-for-6 with three runs and five RBIs.
Holt jump-started Boston’s seven-run fourth inning with a soft liner to center field off Severino for a leadoff single. As the Red Sox batted around, he came up later in the inning against Chad Green and lined a triple over first base and into the right-field corner for his first two RBIs. After grounding out in the sixth, he belted a ground-rule double to deep right-center in the eighth off Stephen Tarpley, knocking in another run.
Then came the big blast in the ninth. “It was awesome. The type of guy he is, this is the guy you pull for,” Red Sox first baseman Steve Pearce said.
“He’s a grinder. Everyone in the dugout was pumped for him. It was awesome. Seeing that smile on his face as he rounded the bases.”
Holt was actually a surprise All-Star back in 2015, Boston’s lone representative in a 78-84 season, but had battled concussion and vertigo problems the past two seasons. He missed a month in 2016 after suffering a concussion and hit .200 in limited action in 2017 as he tried to play through dizziness and other symptoms before a concussion specialist finally advised he take some time off.
He rebounded with a solid season as Boston’s utility guy, hitting .277/.362/.411 while starting at six different positions. He swung at Romine’s first pitch, a 79-mph breaking ball of some sort. It didn’t break enough.
“I knew I needed a home run. I saw Romine on the mound. So you get a little antsy when a position player is on the mound,” Holt said. “I told everyone, ‘Get me up. I need a home run for a cycle.’ I was going to try to hit a home run, but I figured I’d ground out to first, be out in front of something.
“But I scooted up in the box a little bit, and I was going to be swinging at anything and try to hook anything. … That’s probably the first time I’ve ever tried to do that. I rounded the bases, and seeing everyone going nuts in the dugout was a pretty cool moment for me.”
Boston’s 7-9 hitters had gone 3-for-19 in the first two games. Cora also inserted Christian Vazquez in place of Sandy Leon at catcher and Vazquez delivered two hits. Along with Jackie Bradley Jr., the bottom three in the order went 7-for-15 with six runs and six RBIs.
Asked about the lineup changes, J.D. Martinez smiled and suggested, “You have to ask [Cora]. These guys have been doing it all year.”
Indeed, Cora looked like a genius. “[Holt has] been swinging the bat well for a while now,” Cora said after the game. “We felt the matchup was good for him tonight, although he was 0-for-whatever coming into the game against Severino. He’s been able to catch up with fastballs headed the other way, breaking balls, and pull it with power.
“He’s a good player. Last year was tough for him as far as being healthy and the whole thing that went on with him, but when healthy, he can help you out. Tonight was a great night for him.”