BOSTON — Fittingly, the win that officially propelled the Red Sox into the postseason had more of the late-game heroics that have been on display all season.
It was Brock Holt who came up with the big hit this time, a pinch-hit, three-run home run to right field with two outs in the seventh that led the Sox to a 7-2 win over the Blue Jays on Tuesday night at Fenway Park.
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At 99-46, the Red Sox are assured of no worse than playing in the American League Wild Card Game on Oct. 3. However, it is far more likely Boston will emerge as the AL East champions for the third straight season and open the AL Division Series at Fenway Park on Oct. 5. With 17 games remaining, the Red Sox have a magic number of nine to clinch the division after the Yankees lost to the Twins, 10-5.
The Red Sox became the first team in the Majors to clinch a postseason berth this season.
“We’ve got a shot now,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said. “We’re in, we have the elimination game now. We know we’re in a great position to win the division and to accomplish other things. Credit to them.”
This wasn’t a night to cover the lockers with plastic type, but Cora led the group with a toast after the game.
“I just told the group I’m very proud of them regardless of what’s going on around us, the winning streaks, the losing streaks, we stay together,” Cora said. “They’ve been very consistent as far as showing up every day and preparing for the game and playing the game, and I’m very proud of that.”
After being shut down by Blue Jays starter Ryan Borucki through six innings and trailing, 2-0, Steve Pearce ignited the Red Sox with a one-out RBI triple to center field in the seventh. Then, when Eduardo Nunez came to the plate, Mitch Moreland was in the on-deck circle, and it appeared he would hit for Sandy Leon.
But after Nunez drew a walk, Cora did something unusual when he called Moreland back to the dugout. Holt then emerged to pinch-hit, and he belted a 93.1-mph sinker from Ryan Tepera a projected distance of 388 feet, according to Statcast™, into the first row of the grandstands in right.
“The game sped up on me at that point,” Cora said. “I looked to the bullpen and they had a lefty. I wasn’t going to hit for Mitch in the lefty-lefty matchup I didn’t like there. So it went to Brock, they stayed with the righty, and it paid off.”
Holt was elated to come through in that spot.
“We try and stay ready the best we can down in the batting cage throughout the game,” Holt said. “Mitch was on deck there and figured he would hit, but we made a change and I did my best to stay ready and was able to do something good for the team. Any time you can help out, it’s a good night. So that was pretty fun for me.”
Though Holt only has four homers this season, two of them have been go-ahead blasts coming off the bench. Holt also lifted Boston to a 2-1 victory at Philadelphia on Aug. 14, when he hit a pinch-hit solo home run.
“I guess I would rather be in there from the start than to come in and pinch-hit. If I keep hitting homers, I’ll take it,” Holt said. “We’re having fun. Tonight was pretty fun.”