Story’s slam sparks Sox
Red-hot slugger now has four homers in last two games
The Red Sox have emerged from their early season slide and are starting to pile up series wins.
The move started with two from Texas, taking two of three from the Rangers in Arlington. The Sox then returned home to start a seven-game homestand by taking two of three from the Houston Astros.
Now the Sox have taken the first two of a four-game series with the Seattle Mariners with Friday night’s 7-3 victory before a packed house of 30,842 at Fenway Park.
They can make it three straight series wins with one victory in the next two games against the Mariners. The Red Sox have Garrett Whitlock on the mound on Saturday and Nathan Eovaldi on Sunday potentially looking to compete a sweep.
“We are playing good baseball,” said Red Sox manager Alex Cora. “We’ve been playing a lot of close games and we do believe we have a good baseball team that has to keep working to get better. We have a chance to win the series tomorrow and hopefully we can do it.”
The Sox rotation got a boost with the return of Michael Wacha, who had been on the injured list since May 8 with left intercostal irritation.
The signature play of the game was a grand slam by red-hot second baseman Trevor Story in the bottom of the third. Jackie Bradley Jr. clinched the game with a three-run opposite field homer in the eighth.
“As soon as we had the lead late in the game, Jackie was going to come in,” said Cora. “It just happened we got to a point with Jackie against a lefty and he did a good job going the other way.”
Story gave an encore performance to his career night in the Sox’ 12-6 win on Thursday in the series opener.
Story went 4-for-5 with a career-high five runs, three home runs, seven RBI and a stolen base, to become just the second Red Sox player to post those numbers in a game. He complemented that effort by swatting a grand slam to give the Red Sox a 4-0 edge in the bottom of the third Friday.
Story got ahead of a 1-2 pitch by Mariners’ starter Robbie Ray and deposited it into the front row of the Monster seats. It was Story’s sixth home run of the season and the fourth grand slam of his career. The last time Story cleared the bases was with Colorado against the Phillies on April 25, 2021.
“He’ll keep working, he’ll keep getting better and I’m glad that he is doing what he is doing right now,” said Cora.
Wacha made his first start since May 3, when he tossed 5 2/3 scoreless innings in a 4-0 win against the Angels. The right-hander’s return got off to a rocky start. The Mariners had runners on first and third with two outs when Wacha got left fielder Jesse Winker to pop out to third to end the threat.
After facing the minimum nine Mariners in the second, third and fourth,
Wacha got in trouble in the fifth. Eugenio Suarez led off with a double to right-center and Abraham Toro followed with a home run to right to cut the lead to 4-2.
After giving up a lined single to right to put runners on the corners with two outs, Wacha gave the ball to relief pitcher Austin Davis. The southpaw canned Mariners shortstop J.P. Crawford to end the threat.
Wacha went 4 2/3 innings and allowed two earned runs on four hits with three walks and three strikeouts. He threw 75 pitches, 44 for strikes. Wacha was credited with a nodecision while Davis picked up his first win.
Kiké leads the way
Cora elected to keep center fielder Kiké Hernandez in the leadoff spot despite batting a woeful .177 as the Red Sox place setter.
Hernandez justified Cora’s confidence by leading off the game with a double to left. He drew a one-on, noout walk in the third and opened the fifth with a leadoff single.
“He is very aggressive and the fact that he hit a line drive is always good,” said Cora. “He’s finding it a little bit, he caught up with a fastball right away and on the walk, he saw the ball well and then he went to right field after that.”
Shortstop Xander Bogaerts and left fielder Alex Verdugo were involved in a violent collision chasing a bloop fly to left by Crawford. Verdugo accidently undercut Bogaerts as he was making a play on the ball and fell hard on the grass. Verdugo was credited with an error even though he never touched the ball. Bogaerts left the game with a sore back.
“He felt lower-back discomfort on the left side and he will be day-to-day,” said Cora.