Red Sox Notes: Alex Cora Beaming With Pride After Boston Clinches Playoff Berth

The Boston Red Sox long have looked destined for a spot in the Major League Baseball playoffs, and that officially became a reality Tuesday night.

With their 7-2 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays at Fenway Park, the Red Sox became the first team in the league to clinch a playoff berth. All that is guaranteed for now is a shot in the American League Wild Card Game, but it’s quite clear Boston’s aspirations are far bigger than that, especially since it owns a nine-game lead over the New York Yankees in the AL East.

And since the Yankees lost to the Minnesota Twins on Tuesday, not only did Boston’s division lead extend to nine, that now is the magic number to clinch the division, as well.

Sox manager Alex Cora after the game expressed how proud he was of his group.

“Yeah, I mean we’ve got a shot now,” Cora said, as seen on NESN’s postgame coverage. “We have that elimination game now, so we know we’re in a great position to win the division and accomplish other things. But credit to them, I just told the group I’m very proud of them. Regardless of what’s going on around us — the winning streaks, the losing streaks — we stayed together. They’ve been very consistent as far as showing up every day and preparing for the game and playing the game, I’m very proud of them.”

Here are some other notes from Tuesday’s Red Sox-Blue Jays game:

— Chris Sale was activated off the disabled list and returned to the mound Tuesday night.

Sale eased into things, serving as an “opener” in what was a bullpen game for Boston. The left-hander tossed just one inning, allowing one hit with two strikeouts. He was slated to throw 40 pitches, but since he tossed 26 in the first stanza, Cora elected not to bring him back out for the second and have him just finish in the bullpen instead.

Following the game, Cora explained why he yanked Sale early instead of allowing him back out for a few more pitches with a batter standing in.

“It made no sense for me to send him out there for 10 pitches, 12 pitches, whatever it was,” Cora said. “We’re taking care of the guy. His mechanics weren’t there and the speed of the game — this is the big leagues, and, you know, he hasn’t pitched in a while — … So I decided to take him out and then he finished in the bullpen.”

The southpaw’s next assignment will be pitching Sunday in the series finale of this weekend’s series against the New York Mets.

— Nathan Eovaldi’s start in a Red Sox uniform was promising, but it since has taken a dive.

The hard-throwing right-hander got an opportunity as the long guy out of the bullpen Tuesday night, and he looked pretty good. Eovaldi gave up two runs on three hits over 3 2/3 innings with two walks and four strikeouts. He ran into some trouble in the sixth inning, which in part was due to some bad luck, but otherwise made pretty easy work of the Blue Jays lineup.

Eovaldi now will start next Tuesday in New York against the Yankees, but in the meantime, Cora was pleased with what he saw Tuesday.

“I think he did a good job using the fastball up today, use his cutter, his split, slider. So it was a good one,” Cora said. “Now he’ll start Tuesday in New York, and we’ll go from there. But it was good for him to go out there and compete coming out of the bullpen. The stuff will always be there, he’s going to throw 100 regardless if he starts or comes in the middle of the game, and that’s good to see.”

— Brock Holt made his mark on the game with a go-ahead three-run homer as a pinch-hitter with two outs in the seventh.

Emblematic of his career as a whole, Holt stepped up in whatever capacity he needed to in order to help the Red Sox win. The super utility man hasn’t started too regularly lately, but has come up big as a pinch hitter and defensive replacement.

Last month, Holt also hit a go-ahead homer as a pinch-hitter in a win against the Philadelphia Phillies. And with each passing appearance, it becomes more clear how indispensable he is to the Red Sox.

Thumbnail photo via Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports Images

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