NEW YORK — Evidently, Brock Holt was ready when the opportunity was presented to him.
Holt sat out of the first two games of the American League Division Series against the Yankees. And with Luis Severino on the mound for Game 3 — a pitcher against whom Holt had a woeful 1-for-15 career line — the utility infielder wasn’t particularly anticipating the text he received from manager Alex Cora on Sunday night telling him to be ready to be in the starting lineup for Game 3.
“A.C. sent me a text and said I’m playing somewhere tomorrow. He said either first base or second base,” said Holt. “I don’t have very good numbers against Severino, so I told — I sent him a text, and I said, ‘Are you sure?’ ”
Yes. Yes he was. And, as a result of that decision, Holt was in position to make history in the Red Sox’ 16-1 victory over the Yankees in Game 3 of the ALDS, becoming the first player ever to hit for the cycle in a playoff game, amassing a single, double, triple, and homer as part of a 4-for-6 game in which he drove in five runs and scored three times.
Holt grounded out in his first plate appearance, but bounced back with a single (first pitch of his second at-bat against Yankees starter Luis Severino to lead off the fourth inning and set in motion a seven-run frame by the Red Sox), two-run triple (also in the fourth inning, this time against reliever Chad Green), and run-scoring double (eighth inning against lefty Stephen Tarpley).
Given one last opportunity to hit when Ian Kinsler walked with two outs in the top of the ninth, Holt blasted a 79 mile-per-hour, first-pitch offering from Yankees catcher-turned-mopup man Austin Romine into the seats down the right field line for his roundtripper.
“I knew I needed a home run. I saw Romine was 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. 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.”
It was likewise a moment of celebration for Holt’s teammates, who reveled in one of the most popular members of the team — and someone who doesn’t typically occupy top billing for the club — marking his territory as the first player ever to achieve such a rarity in the playoffs.
“Something magical happened,” said Mookie Betts.
“I think that’s a big part that a lot of people pass on. Everyone wants to talk about the main guys on the team and the star players,” added J.D. Martinez. “But . . . it’s guys like that that make the difference in the game. Guys like that that need to get more credit. He did a great job today. He hit for the cycle. What is that the first time it’s ever happened? That’s amazing.”
That blast made him the first player ever to hit for the cycle in October, though Holt had done it once before in the regular season. Even so, the accomplishment in the playoff spotlight in Yankee Stadium came with a different meaning.
“This,” said Holt, “is one I’ll remember for a long time.”