Boston beat Blue Jays to clinch berth

TAKING IT SLOW::Red Sox starter Chris Sale came off the disabled list and pitched a scoreless first inning, but was pulled to ensure that he has a smooth return to form

AP, BOSTON

Thu, Sep 13, 2018 - Page 16

The Red Sox became the first team in the major leagues to clinch a playoff berth and did not celebrate.

“Any time you make the playoffs and give yourself a chance to be that last team, it’s a pretty special thing,” Boston’s Brock Holt said. “We’re excited by that, but we’ve got more work to do.”

Holt on Tuesday night pinch hit in the seventh inning and hit a go-ahead, three-run homer in a 7-2 win over the Toronto Blue Jays that guaranteed Boston no worse than a wild-card berth.

At a major league-best 99-46, the Red Sox lead the American League East by nine games with more than two weeks left. Their post-game celebration was lining up for routine high-fives and heading back to the clubhouse.

“We’re in great position to win the division and then to accomplish other things,” first-year manager Alex Cora said. “As I told the group, I’m very proud of them.”

Starter Chris Sale came off the disabled list and pitched one scoreless inning, striking out two and throwing 26 pitches.

Sale has been slowed by inflammation in his left shoulder, and the Red Sox had said they would ease their ace back into action.

“We’re taking care of the guy,” Cora said.

Boston assured their third straight post-season team, matching the Red Sox teams of the 2003-2005 and 2007-2009 seasons.

Ryan Brasier (2-0) pitched 1-1/3 hitless innings as Boston used seven relievers.

Toronto led 2-0 in the seventh, when Steve Pearce hit a tying triple and Holt followed with a two-out home run off Ryan Tepera (5-5).

Kevin Pillar had an RBI single for Toronto during a two-run sixth, when Devon Travis scored the game’s first run on a double steal and botched defensive play by the Red Sox.

Toronto starter Ryan Boruki, who July 13 allowed seven runs and eight hits at Fenway Park, on Tuesday held an opponent to two runs or fewer in at least six innings for the third time in four starts.

“He was tremendous today,” Toronto manager John Gibbons said. “He’s done a tremendous job for a rookie call-up.”

Sale continued tossing in the bullpen after he was pulled, trying to rebuild his arm strength for the post-season.

He was hoping to get a second inning, but Cora said it did not make sense, because the Red Sox were not going to let him throw more than 40 pitches.

“This is the first step in the right direction,” Sale said, crediting the Red Sox medical staff. “There was a lot of work by a lot of people that went into this.”

Holt also homered as a pinch hitter on Aug. 13 at Philadelphia.

“I guess I would rather be in there from the start than to come in and pinch-hit, but if I keep on hitting homers then I’ll take it,” Holt said.