Holt, Sox riding high on upswing
June, 1, 2014
By Scott Barboza | ESPNBoston.com
BOSTON -- Red Sox manager John Farrell sounded something like a television weather presenter Sunday while trying to describe Brock Holt’s meteoric ascent in the past couple of weeks.
“I can’t predict tomorrow, let alone two weeks,” he said.
You know it's a topsy-turvy world when Holt has more doubles on the season than David Ortiz. Four of Holt’s nine doubles came during Sunday’s 4-0 win over the Tampa Bay Rays, tying the major league record. According to Elias, Holt is just the second leadoff hitter since 1900 to go 4-for-4 or better with four doubles in a game (joining the Phillies' Denny Sothern in 1930).
With that, the Red Sox ran their season-high winning streak to seven games. They matched the major league record for consecutive wins following a double-digit losing streak, joining the 1989 Detroit Tigers and 1942 Pittsburgh Pirates in a bit of dubious distinction.
Is the glass half full or half empty? After they secured their third straight series sweep, on the whole the Red Sox’s glass is somewhere in between -- two games under .500 (27-29) to be exact.
“It’s a lot more fun when things are going well than when things are going wrong, that’s for sure,” Holt said after Sunday’s win. “Baseball’s a funny game though, you’ve got to stay humble.”
While Holt continued to tear the cover off the ball Sunday, Jon Lester turned in his best start in nearly a month, throwing seven innings of shutout ball with 12 strikeouts and just one walk and four hits.
There was a “Gold Dust Twins” spin to Sunday as well, as both Alex Hassan and Garin Cecchini made their major league debuts, collecting their first hits in the game. Cecchini’s came with his first RBI as well, on a double off the Monster in the seventh. It was the first time that had happened for the Red Sox since -- you guessed it -- 1975. You might not have guessed that it was Steve Dillard and Andy Merchant -- not Jim Rice and Fred Lynn -- who accomplished the feat, however.
“Just to be a small part, whether it’s just one game or whatever, I just wanted to help out in some way,” Hassan, the pride of Milton, Massachusetts, and Boston College High, said of the winning streak.
The Red Sox pipeline from Triple-A Pawtucket has been paramount to the streak. Right-hander Rubby De La Rosa dazzled Saturday before Hassan and Cecchini had their moments on Sunday.
Of course, none has defied logic or exceeded expectations as much as Holt, who is now batting .337 with an on-base percentage of .385 on the season.
Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY SportsBrock Holt played his first professional game at first base, a role he may fill more often as John Farrell tries to keep his bat in the lineup.
“I’ve always been able to hit the ball -- not home runs -- but doubles, hit the ball to the gap,” Holt said.
There’s also the intangible element Holt has showcased in the recent weeks. He took a stab at playing first base in Sunday’s game as Farrell was in a pinch with Mike Carp nursing a broken foot. It wasn’t perfect (Holt made an error in the eighth inning on a pretty routine cross-diamond throw), but it was meaningful.
Holt joked before the game that he’d just started playing first base that morning at 10:30, when he and third base coach Brian Butterfield worked on his footwork around the bag.
“He stays inside some pitches to go the other way, he uses the whole field, he’s driving the ball with a little bit more authority this year than a year ago and is playing with a lot of confidence. [It was] the first time he’s ever played first base today, and he did a good job.”
And so the Red Sox sail on, boats against the current through injuries, hit batsmen and the like. With a series fraught with hostility behind them, they head to Cleveland, where the climate will undoubtedly be more serene, reacquainting themselves with Terry Francona for the first time this season.
They'll also reacquaint themselves with shortstop Stephen Drew, who will join the team in Cleveland, push Xander Bogaerts to third base and leave Holt's everyday lineup spot in limbo.
“At the end of the day, we’re trying to win games, we’re not trying to win brawls or fights,” left fielder Jonny Gomes said. “I think that’s first and foremost -- winning the ballgame.”
They’re doing it with gumption, too.
“I think there’s a lot to be said about the guys that aren’t in our lineup and we’re still able to win,” Gomes said. “You take Mike Napoli out, you take [Shane] Victorino out, you take [Dustin] Pedroia out -- to be able to get some wins with one of those guys out of our lineup, never mind all of them together, is pretty valuable.”