BOSTON — The Boston Red Sox became the first team in the majors to clinch a playoff spot this season, rallying on pinch-hitter Brock Holt’s go-ahead home run in the seventh inning to beat the Toronto Blue Jays 7-2 Tuesday night.
Guided by rookie manager Alex Cora, the Red Sox improved the best record in baseball at 99-46. They assured themselves at least a spot in the AL wild-card game while reaching the postseason for the third straight year.
The AL East-leading Red Sox began the night with an eight-game lead over the New York Yankees.
Boston 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.
Sale continued tossing in the bullpen after he was pulled, trying to rebuild his arm strength for the postseason.
The Red Sox matched a team record by making it to the postseason three years in a row. They also did it from 2003-05 and 2007-09 — with World Series titles in ’04 and ’07 included in each run.
Ryan Brasier (2-0) got the win with 1 1-3 innings of hitless relief as Boston used seven relievers after limiting Sale in his return.
Ryan Tepera (5-5) took the loss.
Blue Jays rookie starter Ryan Borucki took a 2-0 lead into the seventh before Boston scored four times. Steve Pearce hit an RBI triple and Holt connected with two outs with a three-run blast.
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.
Pillar ran face-first into the center field wall chasing Pearce’s triple. Pillar needed a few minutes to get back to his feet, but stayed in the game.
TRAINER’S ROOM: Blue Jays: RF Randal Grichuk was back in the lineup, two days after he crashed face-first into a guard’s metal chair. Concussion tests were negative on Grichuk, who was left with a bloody nose, swollen left eye socket and a few facial cuts.
Red Sox: Sale made his first start since Aug. 12 and threw 26 pitches. After a leadoff double by Gurriel, he struck out two, then walked a batter before Grichuck popped out to end the inning.
UP NEXT: Blue Jays: RHP Aaron Sanchez (4-5, 5.17 ERA) is coming off his first win since June 3, allowing three runs on six hits last Wednesday in a 10-3 victory over Tampa Bay.