The Red Sox were lost a couple of weeks ago, and nobody could find Trevor Story, the free-agent shortstop from the Rockies who had become a $140 million (over six years) second baseman at Fenway Park. A team that was within two wins of the World Series last October found itself at the bottom of the AL East with a record of 10-19.
Even after the Red Sox finally showed some life and some fight by winning back-to-back series against the Rangers and the Astros, Story was still hitting just .205 and slugging .293 with a paltry OPS of .320.
Then everything changed last week against the Mariners, when Story had the second three-home run game of his career at the beginning of a four-game sweep against Seattle that seems to have turned around the Red Sox's season. Four hits in all that night, seven RBIs. Before long, Story was Player of the Week in the American League because of a .360/.452/1.120 slash line, and had reminded everybody how fast things can still change in baseball for a player, and for his team.
On Tuesday night against the White Sox Story hit another three-run homer, this one in the first inning of what turned into a 16-3 beatdown that brought the Red Sox's record to 20-22. Obviously just about everybody except Papi Ortiz has started to hit for the Red Sox lately. But it has all seemed to organize around what quickly became such an amazing story: Trevor Story’s.
At the moment, he is the most dangerous .231 hitter in the whole sport, as the Red Sox look like the hottest team in the league. Story is up to eight homers and 33 RBIs and 23 runs scored. Just as people were wondering how much he missed Coors Field, he did what the Red Sox signed him to do: Make his new ballpark look absolutely as home-run friendly as his old one.
“I told [Story] a few weeks ago … we trust you,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said the other day. “He’s playing free and that’s something I told him in the recruiting process. You know, adding one more athlete to the lineup is going to help us.”
Not only has Story reminded everyone, beyond just Red Sox fans, of the way he always hit for his old team, he reminded us at the same time that sometimes moving to a new team, a new city, a new position, a new fan base -- and even higher expectations than ever before -- is not as easy as simply putting on a new uniform.
We saw it all over again. And he finally heard it at Fenway after the White Sox finished a three-game sweep of the Sox. It was the low point for them, and for Story. He struck out six times in that series, three in the last game. After the last one, the boos for him, from the home crowd, were as loud as they had been. After that game, he was unavailable to the media, the way his bat -- his average was .194 after his last strikeout -- had largely been unavailable to his new team across April and now into May.
But through the first game of another series against Chicago, nobody was having any fun pitching to his team, and nobody was having any fun at all pitching to Trevor Story, who has not just reminded people of the way he can hit, but has shown how he has reacted to being hit, and knocked down.
Rockies manager Bud Black, Story’s former skipper whose own team got to 20-22 Tuesday night, said he was never worried that Story would turn things around.
Black: “He’s always cared about all 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 around.”
So Story has worked his way out of the hole he dug for himself in the first month of the season, and the work really began to pay off across that 6-1 homestand the Red Sox just finished. Then came that three-homer game against Seattle, it was as if the lights all came on for him at once. Again: This is the hitter the Sox thought they were getting, the one whose presence in Cora’s batting order would make up for the right-handed bat the Red Sox lost in Hunter Renfroe (31 home runs for Renfroe last season, 96 RBIs).
Here is something Cora said in Chicago after Story had gone deep again:
“He’s doing an amazing job doing damage in the zone.”
Is he ever. Story has now gone 18-for-76 in May, and that includes his slow start in the month. He has now hit eight home runs in his last 12 games. There are much bigger batting averages in front of him in the Sox order. Rafael Devers, one of the best pure hitters on the planet, is at .337. Xander Bogaerts is .323. J.D. Martinez got four more hits on Tuesday and is up to .366.
But the way the Sox have exploded, just over the last week, seems to have been triggered by the new guy hitting behind all of them. Some Story.