Yesterday does not matter. That is the mantra of all baseball clubs, especially in the postseason. It was especially true for Red Sox second baseman Brock Holt, who made history Monday night and did not make the starting lineup Tuesday.
It did not matter that in Game 3, he became the first player to hit for the cycle — single, double, triple and a home run — in a postseason game. The Yankees' starting pitcher Tuesday was CC Sabathia and as Holt, a lefty batter, had said after his landmark effort Monday, “I don’t have very many at-bats against him. He throws with his left arm. I normally don’t get in on those games.”
Red Sox manager Alex Cora acknowledged that he delivered the bad news to Holt on Tuesday morning. “I told him, ‘It’s a tough league,’ ” Cora said before Game 4 at Yankee Stadium Tuesday. “He knew. He knew where we were going.”
Consider it a commentary on the depth and versatility of the Red Sox that they had two new starters in the lineup, despite having scored 16 runs Monday. “We’ve been doing this the whole season,” Cora said.
The manager texted Ian Kinsler from the team bus Monday night that he would be in for Holt. Kinsler justified that faith with a run-scoring double against Sabathia in the third, and scored to make it 3-0 on a single by Eduardo Nunez, who also had not started Monday.
More important about the changes, perhaps, is that they are a commentary on the team’s mindset. A season full of yesterdays does not matter, even after a franchise-record 108 wins. The RedSox entered Tuesday knowing that, win or lose, they have a long way to go.
“Our goals,” Cora said, “are way up there, way up there. Obviously, it started with the division and then the best record and home-field advantage. But now this is step four or whatever it is. Our goal is to win 11 games in October.”
Baseball history is dotted with teams that had stellar years that have been all but forgotten by the sport’s collective memory because they did not win the World Series. The 1906 Cubs and 2001 Mariners each won 116 regular-season games but came up short in the postseason. One-hundred eleven wins for the 1954 Indians failed to help them win even once against the Giants that October. The 1969 Orioles had a 109-victory season but they still stand merely as extras in the saga of the Miracle Mets.
So, there was no room for sentimentality in making out the lineup for Game 4. Holt and Rafael Devers, who had a combined six hits and six runs batted in during Game 3, were not starting. Depth and flexibility are as important as ever, now that teams are carrying more relievers and need their bench players to do more things. Christian Vazquez, who did not start either of the first two games, hit a home run into the first row Tuesday night to put Boston ahead 4-0.
“We talked about versatility throughout the season,” Cora said. “It’s very important. Brock can play everything except catching and pitching. [Steve] Pearce can DH, he can play first, we can put him at second, he can play the outfield. We’re playing in an era where that’s needed. You have to maximize your roster, your position players.”
The greater concern for Cora is that his bullpen is not as deep as his bench. Rick Porcello, the scheduled Game 3 starter, had to be used in relief during Game 1. That is why he was moved back to Game 4 instead.
Today always is the most important day, as Holt understands. “You try to stay ready,” he said. “In the position I’m in, you try to stay ready, and whenever your name is called, you try to do what you can do to help the team.”