Brock Holt had one thing in mind: He was swinging for the fences.
After all, the game was decided long ago. And everything else went Boston’s way all night, so why not this?
The part-time utilityman put the finishing touch on a Red Sox blowout, becoming the first player to hit for the cycle in a postseason game as Boston routed the New York Yankees 16-1 on Monday to seize a 2-1 lead in their best-of-five AL Division Series.
“This one I’ll remember for a long time,” said Holt, unaware of his achievement until told by a television reporter right after the final out. “Obviously, you don’t go into the game expecting to make history or do anything like that, let alone score 16 runs.”
Andrew Benintendi lined a three-run double and Holt tripled home two more in a seven-run fourth inning that quickly turned the latest playoff matchup between these longtime rivals into a laugher. Handed a big early lead, Nathan Eovaldi shut down his former team during New York’s most lopsided defeat in 396 postseason games.
“An embarrassing day,” shortstop Didi Gregorius said.
Game 4 is Tuesday night in the Bronx, where the 108-win Red Sox can put away the wild-card Yankees for good and advance to the AL Championship Series against Houston. Rick Porcello is scheduled to pitch against New York lefty CC Sabathia.
Boston battered an ineffective Luis Severino and silenced a charged-up Yankee Stadium crowd that emptied out fast on a night when Red Sox rookie manager Alex Cora made all the right moves.
“You get a little antsy when a position player is on the mound. I told everyone, ’Get me up. I need a home run for a cycle,’” Holt said. “I scooted up in the box a little bit, and I was going to be swinging at anything and try to hook anything. Obviously, you don’t expect to hit a home run, but I was trying to. I was trying to hit a home run. 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.”
His teammates, too.
“He wasn’t shy about it,” Benintendi said. “Everybody was rooting for him.”
Boosted by noisy fans in their homer-friendly ballpark, the Yankees entered 7-0 at home the past two postseasons — against out-of-division opponents. But the Red Sox, frequent visitors who clinched the AL East crown at Yankee Stadium just 2½ weeks ago, were hardly intimidated.
“I think from pitch 1, we let them know that we were here,” Cora said.
Mookie Betts, in fact, hit a 405-foot flyout to the center-field warning track to begin the game.
Making his first playoff start this year, Holt opened the fourth with a single off Severino and capped the 26-minute outburst with a triple to right field. The 2015 All-Star also doubled home a run in the eighth and finished with five RBIs.
Holt also hit for the cycle against Atlanta on June 6, 2015.
“He’s been swinging the bat well for a while now,” Cora said. “We felt the matchup was good for him.”
Every starter had at least one hit for the Red Sox, who piled up 18 in all. The only time they scored more runs in the postseason was a 23-7 win over Cleveland in 1999.
Eovaldi pitched for the Yankees from 2015-16 before injuring his elbow, which required a second Tommy John surgery. Boston acquired him from Tampa Bay in July and the hard-throwing righty compiled a 1.93 ERA in four starts against New York this season — three with the Red Sox.
Bumped up a day in front of Porcello, he delivered a gem in his first postseason appearance. Eovaldi allowed one run and five hits in seven innings, throwing 72 of 97 pitches for strikes.
“I was just trying to use their aggressiveness against them and try and get some quick outs,” Eovaldi said. “It was a special moment for me. I don’t think it’s really quite settled in yet.”
Going with Eovaldi was one of several choices that paid off for Cora.
Looking to play left-handed hitters against Severino, the first-year skipper inserted Holt at second base and Rafael Devers at third. Christian Vazquez started at catcher over Sandy Leon.
Devers singled twice, stole a base, scored two runs and knocked in another. Vazquez’s infield single off Severino’s glove drove in the first run.
Benintendi, already a Yankees nemesis, was on base four times and scored twice. Betts also scored two runs and drove in two.
“It just kind of shows you what kind of team we have and that we could explode at any minute,” Betts said.
TBS reported Severino began warming up only 10 minutes before the game, and he certainly looked out of sorts from the start in misty weather. He left with the bases loaded and nobody out in the fourth and was charged with six runs and seven hits.
“He got his normal pitches routine,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “It wasn’t an issue.”
The only other position player to pitch in a postseason game was Toronto infielder Cliff Pennington against Kansas City in the 2015 AL Championship Series.
IF AT FIRST
There were four replay challenges in the first four innings — all involving calls by first base umpire Angel Hernandez. Three were overturned.
Red Sox: 1B Mitch Moreland sat out after leaving Game 2 when he hurt his right hamstring running the bases. “Mitch is available, but he’s not 100 percent,” Cora said. Steve Pearce played first and had an RBI single in the fourth.
Yankees: CF Aaron Hicks remained out of the lineup after missing Game 2 with tightness in his right hamstring, which forced him from the series opener Friday. Boone said Hicks was doing “significantly better,” and sitting him was a much more difficult decision than it was Saturday. Brett Gardner was back in center, but Boone said he wouldn’t hesitate to use Hicks in any role off the bench.
Red Sox: Porcello (17-7, 4.28 ERA) got two late outs in relief during the series opener last Friday, so his start was pushed back a day to Game 4. The 2016 AL Cy Young Award winner, who grew up a Mets fan in nearby New Jersey, was 2-0 with a 2.31 ERA in three starts against the Yankees this year — including a one-hitter on just 86 pitches Aug. 3 at Fenway Park. He is 0-3 with a 5.33 ERA in 12 career postseason outings, including four starts.
Yankees: The 38-year-old Sabathia (9-7, 3.65) will be on 11 days’ rest when he makes his 23rd postseason start. The big lefty was ejected from his last regular-season outing for hitting Tampa Bay catcher Jesus Sucre with a pitch during a testy game between division rivals on Sept. 27. Sabathia appealed a five-game suspension from Major League Baseball that would not take effect until next season. He said Monday he definitely wants to play in 2019 — even if it’s not for the Yankees.
Carlos Correa Hits Walk-Off Homer in the 11th Inning to Tie ALCS at a Game Apiece
Back in 2017, the Houston Astros played the New York Yankees in the ALCS and dropped the first game of the series at home.
Justin Verlander started Game 2 and threw a complete game, carrying a tie to the bottom of the ninth inning for the Astros. Jose Altuve singled to lead off that frame and then Carlos Correa hit a walk-off double to tie the series.
Now two years later, in a game that Verlander happened to start as well, Correa once again came up to the plate with a chance to win a game for his team.
This time, the shortstop delivered the second postseason walk-off hit of his career in grand fashion, drilling an opposite field home run in the 11th inning.
That home run was just the finishing touch to an amazing game by Correa.
In the second inning, Correa drove in the first run of the game with an RBI double that brought Alex Bregman home.
Verlander was excellent for the Astros, pitching against a very tough Yankees lineup. He threw 6 2/3 innings, yielding just five hits and two runs, with seven strikeouts.
The runs he allowed came on a two-run homer off the bat of Aaron Judge in the fourth inning.
While the Yankees took a 2-1 lead on Judge’s home run, George Springer hit a home run of his own in the fifth inning to tie the game.
Another turning point came in the sixth inning, when the Yankees were rallying against Verlander.
With two runners on, Brett Gardner ripped a base hit that ricocheted off of Jose Altuve, falling in no-man’s land up the middle.
The Yankees sent D.J. LeMahieu around to try to score on the play, but Correa once again came through in the clutch, making a heads-up play and gunning down the runner at the plate.
The game would remain tied until the 11th inning, with the Astros bullpen using five pitchers to get 4 1/3 innings of scoreless relief.
Then came Correa’s walk-off in the bottom of the 11th and the series is now all tied up as it heads to New York City for Game 3 on Tuesday night.
Hopefully we are in for a long series, as this really might be a matchup of the two best teams in baseball.
Nationals Take Commanding 2-0 Lead Back to Washington in the NLCS
The Washington Nationals are in prime position to go to the World Series for the first time in franchise history.
Washington now returns home to play three games with the chance to clinch the series by winning two games in front of their fans.
For the Nationals it has been their pitching that has carried them thus far against the Cardinals, as St. Louis has been helpless against their starters.
In Game 1, the Nationals were forced to send out their No. 4 starter as their trio of aces were worn down from the series against the Dodgers. Luckily that starter was Anibal Sanchez, a long-time MLB veteran that has pitched in big games plenty of times in his career.
Sanchez was not fazed by the moment by any stretch and actually no-hit the Cardinals through seven innings.
It actually felt inevitable that the no-hitter would happen too, as no-hitters usually come with an incredible defensive play and Ryan Zimmerman delivered one in the eighth inning.
Unfortunately for Sanchez, he yielded a base-hit to Jose Martinez two batters later, ending his no-hit bid.
Still the most important thing for the Nationals was that Sanchez got them the 2-0 victory. But the craziness was just beginning for the Nationals, because the next day, it almost happened again.
Max Scherzer pitched Game 2 and he carried a no-hitter through six innings. Scherzer would not finish the no-hitter though, as Paul Goldschmidt laced a single to lead off the seventh inning.
In the end, Scherzer struck out 11 batters and did not yield a run across seven brilliant innings.
The thing that makes Sanchez and Scherzer’s back-to-back no-hit bids more incomprehensible is the fact that they actually had already done this before.
Back in 2013, when both pitchers were on the Detroit Tigers, Scherzer and Sanchez actually accomplished a similar feat.
This year’s version was more impressive however, as they are not only both 35 years old, but they also took their respective no-hit bids deeper into the game.
While the Nationals have to love the performances that those two veterans have given them thus far, they should hope that history stops repeating itself there.
That is because the Boston Red Sox came back in that series against Sanchez and Scherzer’s Tigers and won the ALCS in six games. Boston went on to win the World Series.
We will see if the Cardinals can turn their fate in a similar fashion when the series resumes on Monday night in Washington for Game 3.
Gerrit Cole Leads the Astros to the ALCS For Third-Straight Year
The Houston Astros are once again heading to the ALCS, as they continue their dynasty over the American League.
In the past two seasons, the Astros have won their division round mathcup rather easily, never facing an elimination game. However this year that changed, as the Tampa Bay Rays pushed them on the brink of elimination.
Tampa won Game 3 and Game 4 at home, forcing the series to return to Houston to play a Game 5 on Thursday night. But the Astros still had Gerrit Cole ready to pitch in that game and he was his usual dominant self.
Cole was spotted a four-run lead in the first inning, giving him ample run support. Then Cole did what any good ace does. He closed the door.
The hard-throwing righty allowed just two hits and one run across eight brilliant innings pitched.
In his first playoff start, Cole struck out 15 batters in a dominant performance. After reaching double digits again in Game 5, Cole put himself in elite company for accomplishing a rare postseason feat.
With Gerrit Cole in the rotation, the Astros stand a great chance to make it to the World Series and win their second title in three years. Cole was not with the Astros in 2017, giving him extra motivation to get his first World Series ring.
The first team standing in the way of that happening is the New York Yankees. The Yankees just came off sweeping the Minnesota Twins and will have been resting for five full days by the time Game 1 starts on Sunday.
That could give them a slight advantage over the Astros, but with a starting rotation that includes Cole and Justin Verlander, Houston will be ready to face whatever the Yankees throw at them.
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