On April 19, the Boston Red Sox came back in the late innings to top the Baltimore Orioles at Fenway Park. David Ortiz took Bud Norris deep to right field for a fourth-inning home run, and in the bottom of the seventh, Brock Holt, batting ninth and playing third in place of an injured Will Middlebrooks, hit a triple into the triangle to tie the game and, eventually, score the go-ahead run on a Jonathan Herrera bunt.
Since then, the Red Sox have been down, then up, and then down again. But two constants seem to be taking shape. First, Ortiz is still a monster and hits when he’s supposed to hit. And Holt has become the team’s best hope for a catalyst, someone at the top of the order to work pitchers and give the rest of the lineup a chance as spring turns to summer and the season starts to dwindle.
It’s still a weird team and a weird season where they don’t seem as out of the race as they likely should seem. Jonny Gomes has played much more than he should, thanks to injuries and the unofficial exile of Daniel Nava (though he seems to be squeaking back into the lineup). The season isn’t yet a lost cause, and there’s plenty to be hopeful for this season — Jon Lester and John Lackey anchoring the rotation, the continued growth of Xander Bogaerts, Mike Napoli getting on base every single day, David Ortiz doing his David Ortiz thing whenever possible, etc.
And then there are the stories that weren’t predicted when the team broke camp in April. In Spring Training, Brock Holt was a sixth infielder who would likely spend most of his year on the shuttle between Pawtucket and Boston, riding up I-95 whenever someone hit the disabled list and shuffling between positions on both teams as needed.
Now, on June 10, Holt is practically ingrained as the leadoff hitter, claiming a spot on the team when Middlebrooks went down again and now playing any position asked. In the past two weeks he’s made his professional debuts at both first base and left field, sliding over after Stephen Drew’s return pushed Bogaerts to third base. But where, even a month ago, Holt would have just been optioned back to Pawtucket without much further thought, instead John Farrell plugged him into the other side of the diamond.
On April 21, Holt made his first appearance of the season in the leadoff spot. He was sent back down on April 25, called back up on May 17, and found his way back to the top of the lineup on May 23, where he’s hit in every game played since. And since May 17, he’s hit .337 with nine doubles, another triple and his first Major League home run.
Josh Wilker of Cardboard Gods likened his season so far to Wade Boggs’ rookie year in 1982. Like Holt, Boggs flipped between first and third base, and was in and out of the lineup until finding a steady spot in mid June. He hit .364 that month, hardly ever walking (once) or striking out (twice) in a 12-game stretch to seal his place on the team.
Boggs, obviously, would be the best-case scenario for Holt, but it’s a fun comparison that goes beyond their shared jersey no. 26. But in a season where the team may or may not be playing themselves out of contention, it’s the fun things that will make going to the park and tuning in every week fun.