SAN DIEGO — Brock Holt isn’t a fan of the West Coast time change. When he gets his day started, Holt explained in the visitors clubhouse Saturday afternoon, he feels like he’s missed everything back East. It’s time wasted, in a sense.
In the top of the ninth inning of a 4-4 game, Holt knew he couldn’t waste any time in the at-bat against San Diego Padres closer Kirby Yates, however. The longer the at-bat, the more time in the batter’s box, the greater the chance Holt would see one of Yates’s devastating splitters that he threw 10.8 percent of the time coming into this game.
So, on the first pitch of the at-bat, Holt pulled a 93 miles-per-hour heater down the right-field line for a home run and an eventual 5-4 victory that gave the Sox the chance to sweep the three-game series on Sunday.
“I just try to not change my approach,” Holt said afterward. “Not do too much. Just get a good pitch to hit and try to put a barrel on it.”
Not many have been successful at that against Yates this season, arguably the best closer in the National League. He carried a 1.24 ERA coming into this one and yielded just one home run in 51 innings.
The likelihood of Holt homering?
“I mean however many at-bats divided by two home runs,” Holt said with a laugh. “That’s it. I mean we’re trying to win baseball games and fortunately we were able to do that tonight.”
Since Holt went the probability route, perhaps it’s worth making this a part of the equation, too. No win is ever linear for this Sox team. That’s just been the story of the year. The Red Sox blew a 4-0 lead before Holt put them back ahead again and Brandon Workman shut the door in the ninth.
“We pulled it off,” Cora said. “Now we’re ready for tomorrow.”
Mookie Betts shot a single through the right side off Padres starter Dinelson Lamet in the third inning to give the Red Sox a 1-0 lead.
The Sox got to Lamet again in the fourth when Christian Vazquez’s double plated two. Next, Mitch Moreland’s line drive single to center gave the Sox what seemed like comfortable a 4-0 lead.
But Nathan Eovaldi wasn’t sharp from the start. Though he held the Padres scoreless through the first three innings, it was all smoke and mirrors. The Padres got good swings against him despite coming up empty. He never located that well throughout and tossed a 23-pitch inning in the third.
In the fourth, Eovaldi paid for his mistakes. He had Manny Machado down in the count, 0-2, but then snapped off three straight balls that spun in the lefthand batter’s box. Eovaldi tried to go to his cutter for the second time, but it caught too much of the plate and Machado smoked a single up the middle.
The next batter was Eric Hosmer, who flied out to left field in his first at-bat. Eovaldi fell behind in the count, 2-1, and tried to sneak a 94 mph fastball in on Hosmer. Hosmer turned on it for a two-run shot to right and Eovaldi’s night was done. He threw 64 pitches and just 36 strikes.
“His stuff was down in that inning,” said Cora, who had hoped they could stretch Eovaldi out to 80 pitches. “We’re trying to stretch him out. He’s going to be needed to go deeper into the game.”
“Toward the end I felt like I had to battle,” Eovaldi said. “I don’t know if I was tired or what. But I have to go out there and locate those pitches.”
Eovaldi couldn’t spin his secondary stuff, oftentimes bouncing pitches, or throwing across his body as he began to tire. The velocity was there, but Eovaldi induced just four swing-and-misses. He was vulnerable throughout and had Cora kept him in any longer, it likely would have been more trouble for the Sox.
Cora called on Marcus Walden, then Darwinzon Hernandez for the fifth inning. The Padres’ Luis Urias had a RBI groundout off Walden in the fourth inning that scored Hunter Renfroe and trimmed the Sox lead to 4-3.
Hernandez held San Diego scoreless in the fifth. Ryan Brasier came on for the sixth and seventh. The Padres didn’t have an answer for him in the sixth. He tallied two strikeouts that inning, striking out both Hosmer and Renfroe.
But in the seventh inning, Brasier found himself in trouble. He walked Urias to start the seventh and then struck out Austin Hedges. After a brief visit from pitching coach Dana LeVangie, Brasier hit Francisco Mejia with a pitch.
Cora went to his bullpen yet again, calling on Josh Taylor with runners on first and second. On Taylor’s very first offering, the Padres’ Ty France singled to left to tie it, 4-4. It was the first run charged to Brasier in 4⅓ innings since the team recalled him from Triple-A Pawtucket on Aug. 17.
Later that inning, Taylor walked Machado to load the bases with two outs, but buried a cutter to Hosmer on a 1-2 count to strike him out and keep the game knotted up. Matt Barnes had the eighth followed by Workman.
“We’re doing what we need to be doing,” Taylor said after the bullpen covered six innings. “We’re getting our call, getting our outs and handing it off to the next guy. Kind of like a relay race.”
The race was decided after Holt’s timely ninth-inning homer.
“We got to win,” Holt said. “We have to win as much as we can. I feel like we’ve been playing good baseball and we have to keep it going.”
Julian McWilliams can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.