BOSTON — Brock Holt, Pinch Hitter Extraordinaire.
If the Red Sox utility man had a business card to hand out heading into any postseason roster meetings, that’s likely how his title would read.
Holt’s latest key swing off the bench propelled Boston ever closer to a third straight American League East crown. His two-run double in the bottom of the fifth inning was the deciding blow in a 5-3 victory over the Mets on Saturday afternoon at Fenway Park, a gorgeous day where the warm sunshine gave way to a cool fall night.
Holt snapped a 3-3 tie with a rocket off the Green Monster in deep left center, a rude greeting for New York reliever Drew Smith. The Red Sox reduced their magic number to four thanks to their victory and an 8-7 win by the Blue Jays over the Yankees in the Bronx. It was the 102nd triumph of the season for Boston, snapping a tie with 1915 club for third most in franchise history.
“I feel if there’s a pitch you feel you can drive, go for it,” red Sox manager Alex Cora said. “With Brock, he’s patient. But in that situation you don’t want to fall behind, and he put a good swing on it.”
All five of Holt’s hits off the bench have gone for extra bases. His second double followed a triple and a pair of go-ahead home runs, and he’s driven in seven runs in just 13 at-bats. Holt certainly figures to be in the October mix, particularly if bottom of the order is due at the plate for the Red Sox in a critical spot.
“Brock always gives you a quality at-bat,” Boston outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. said. “He sees the ball and most times he’s hitting the ball hard. He was able to see the first pitch and hit it hard and he came up really big for us today.”
Boston finally recorded its first extra-base hit of the series in the fifth, albeit a contentious one. Bradley smoked a liner that caromed off the top of the wall in left, a drive that was initially called a three-run homer. A crew chief review allowed both runs to score but sent Bradley back to second base with just a double, and the Red Sox were momentarily forced to settle for a 3-3 tie.
“You can’t argue the replay,” Cora said. “It wasn’t an automatic double, so they placed the runners wherever they felt. It was Jackie at second and we scored two runs.”
Rafael Devers was intentionally walked and up stepped Holt into what has now become a familiar role. He ambushed a first-pitch fastball from Smith, sending a missile off the wall in deep left center. It was a two-run double for a 5-3 lead, and the Boston fans among the 36,611 at the ballpark delighted in what they felt was justice served.
“What’s the old saying — everything happens for a reason?” Bradley said. “I didn’t hit a homer. I got the double. They probably wouldn’t intentionally walk Raffy and Brock Holt wouldn’t have pinch hit, hit a double and scored two runs. We got an extra run out of it, so we won.”
The Mets did all of their scoring in the fourth against Red Sox starter Rick Porcello, forcing him to throw 31 of his 88 pitches. Todd Frazier worked a nine-pitch walk to soften up Porcello for Brandon Nimmo, who sent a towering three-run homer to the Boston bullpen in right center. That gave New York a 3-1 lead, and the considerable traveling contingent from Queens welcomed Nimmo back to right field the next half-inning with a standing ovation.
The Red Sox led early on an RBI single to center by Xander Bogaerts, a grounder past diving shortstop Amed Rosario that made it 1-0 in the first. Boston improved to 68-13 when scoring first this season, more wins than the Blue Jays, Orioles and seven other big league clubs carried into the afternoon.
Bobby Poyner and Ryan Brasier sandwiched 1-2-3 innings around a bit of an adventure from Steven Wright in the seventh. The knuckleballer walked the first two batters he faced before retiring the next three in order, requiring 30 pitches in all and stranding the potential tying run in scoring position. Craig Kimbrel was summoned for the ninth and recorded his 41st save, setting the Mets down in order.