The night began with a typically brash Yankee Stadium crowd ascending, cheering in anticipation of Luis Severino’s first pitch in Game 3 of the ALDS on Monday night.
But by the time it ended three hours and 41 minutes later, a dispirited Yankee Stadium crowd had thinned to the bare bones, red tail lights lining the path to the Major Deegan Expressway.
What a night it was for the Boston Red Sox and Brock Holt, once known as Brocktober or the Brockstar, but now forever to be remembered for doing something Ted Williams, Yaz, Manny Ramirez, Big Papi or anyone in the history of baseball had ever done before.
In the top of the ninth inning, using a bat he had borrowed from Mookie Betts in Toronto two months earlier, Holt stepped to the plate and saw Yankees backup catcher Austin Romine staring back at him.
There was a good reason: The Red Sox were already leading 14-1 and Yankees manager Aaron Boone wisely did not want to waste David Robertson, Zach Britton, Dellin Betances and Aroldis Chapman simply to prevent more damage.
According to the Associated Press, Romine, who ended up throwing 18 pitches, was just the second position player in MLB history asked to pitch in a postseason game. Infielder Cliff Pennington was the first, pitching the ninth for the Toronto Blue Jays who trailed Kansas City by 10 runs in Game 4 of the 2015 ALCS.
By the time he dug in, Holt already had a single, double and triple. You didn’t need a degree in sabermetrics to know only one piece was missing.
“I knew I needed a home run,” Holt said. “I saw Romine on the mound. So 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.’ 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.”
It wasn’t certain he’d get his chance until Ian Kinsler walked with two outs.
Romine’s first pitch to Holt was a batting practice fastball which floated in at less than 80 mph. As he promised he would do, Holt hooked the ball a few rows up into the grandstand in right field.
Holt had his cycle, the second of his Major League career, just the 26th player to do so. But more significantly, he became the first ever to do it in the postseason and that began with the 1903 World Series.
And the Red Sox had wrapped up a 16-1 win that surged them ahead of the Yankees in the best-of-five series than continues Tuesday night at Yankee Stadium.
The 15-run margin was the largest road win in playoff history, surpassing the previous mark of 14 accomplished by the Braves over the Cardinals (14-0 in Game 5 of the NLCS) and the Yankees with a 18-4 win over the New York Giants in Game 2 of the 1936 World Series.
It also set Yankee records for most runs allowed and the worst defeat in the postseason.
“This one I’ll remember for a long time,” said Holt, who was 4-for-6 with five RBIs. “Obviously, you don’t go into the game expecting to make history or do anything like that, let alone score 16 runs against a good New York Yankees team. So it was a good night overall for everyone.”
What made it all seem so surreal was that Cora had Holt bolted to the bench in the first two games of the series. But the manager decided to shake things up and inserted Holt, Steve Pearce, Rafael Devers and Christian Vazquez into the lineup. And it worked so well.
Monday may be remembered as the renaissance of Holt’s MLB career. Following his appearance on the 2015 All-Star team, the guy has had terrible luck dealing with concussions and vertigo. He hit only .200 in 2017 before the Red Sox decided to shut him down.
But he was back to his normal self this season, Boston’s most versatile player. After starting season hitting as high as .298, he cooled in the summer heat of the summer and by the time August rolled around, his average was down to .179.
After making outs in his first two at-bats in an August game in Toronto, Holt approached Betts, who led MLB in batting average this season, and asked if he could use one of his bats.
Holt immediately got a hit and then went 3-for-4 the next day. He slashed .337 in the final 35 games, including six homers, and raised his average to .277.
On Monday, Holt got Boston’s seven-run fourth innings moving with a leadoff single off Severino. Later in the inning, he crashed a triple of Chad Green, driving home two runs. He added the double in the eighth off Stephen Tarpley.
And then came the ninth. Brocky Mountain High.
“It was awesome. The type of guy he is, this is the guy you pull for,” said Pearce. “He’s a grinder. Everyone in the dugout was pumped for him. It was awesome. Seeing that smile on his face as he rounded the bases.”