The Red Sox were lost a few weeks ago and no one could find Trevor Story, the Rockies free-agent shortstop who had become a $140 million second baseman (in six years) at Fenway Park. A team that came within two World Series wins last October found themselves at the bottom of the AL East with a 10-19 record.
Even after the Red Sox finally showed some life and some struggle by winning back-to-back series against the Rangers and the Astros, Story still hit only .205 and slugging .293 with a paltry OPS of .320.
Then everything changed last week against the Mariners, when Story had the second game of three homeruns of his career to start a four-game sweep against Seattle that appeared to have changed the season for the Red Sox. Four hits that night, seven RBI’s. Before long, Story was named Player of the Week in the American League for a .360/.452/1.120 slash, reminding everyone how quickly things can still change in baseball for a player and for his team.
On Tuesday-evening against the White Sox, Story hit another three-run homerun, this one in the first inning of what turned into a 16-3 beatdown that brought the Red Sox record to 20-22. Obviously just about everyone except Papi Ortiz has been starting to strike for the Red Sox lately. But it all seemed to revolve around what quickly became such a great story: Trevor Stories.
Right now, he is the most dangerous .231 batter in the entire sport, as the Red Sox look like the best team in the league. The story is up to eight home runs and 33 RBIs and 23 runs scored. Just when people wondered how much he missed Coors Field, he did what the Red Sox told him to do: make his new baseball field look absolutely as home-run-friendly as his old one.
“I said [Story] a few weeks ago… we trust you,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said recently. “He’s free and I told him that during the recruiting process. You know, adding another athlete to the lineup will help us.”
Not only did Story remind everyone but just Red Sox fans of the way he always punched for his old team, he also reminded us that sometimes moving to a new team, a new city, a new position, a new fan base – and even higher expectations than ever before – isn’t as easy as donning a new uniform.
We saw it all again. And he finally heard it from Fenway after the White Sox completed a three-game sweep of the Sox. It was the low point for them, and for Story. He struckout six in that series, three in the last game. After the last one, the booing for him from the home crowd was just as loud as they had been. After that game, he was unavailable to the media, as his bat – his average was .194 after his last strikeout – was largely unavailable to his new team until May.
But in the first game of another series against Chicago, no one enjoyed throwing for his team, and no one enjoyed throwing at Trevor Story, who not only reminded people of the way he can punch, but showed how he reacted to being hit and knocked down.
Rockies manager Bud Black, Story’s former skipper whose own team reached 20-22 Tuesday night, said he was never concerned that Story would change things.
Black: “He’s always cared about the right things. His team, his teammates and his respect for the game. He always has as much work capacity as any player I’ve ever been to.”
So Story worked his way out of the hole he dug for himself in the first month of the season, and the work really started to pay off on that 6-1 homestand the Red Sox had just completed. Then came that game with three home runs against Seattle, it was like all the lights went on for him at once. Again, this is the batter the Sox thought they were getting, the one whose presence in Cora’s batting order would make up for the right-handed bat that the Red Sox lost to Hunter Renfroe (31 home runs for Renfroe last season, 96 RBIs).
Here’s something Cora said in Chicago after Story went deep again:
“He does a great job dealing damage in the zone.”
Is he ever. Story has now gone 18-for-76 in May, and that includes his slow start to the month. He has now hit eight home runs in his last 12 games. There are much bigger batting averages for him in the Sox order. Rafael Devers, one of the best pure hitters in the world, is at .337. Xander Bogaerts is .323. JD Martinez received four more hits on Tuesday and stands at .366.
But the way the Sox exploded just in the past week seems to have been caused by the new man trailing after them. A story.