BOSTON — For the first seven innings of Sunday’s matinee between the Red Sox and Twins at Fenway Park, it looked like anyone’s game.
Starter Michael Wacha was in total command, firing five shutout innings and not allowing a hit until the first batter of the fifth. On the other side, Twins starter Bailey Ober cruised through five innings before running into trouble in the sixth, with the Red Sox mustering just four hits off the righty.
The Red Sox led, 2-1, after seven, with all three of the game’s runs coming on sacrifice flies. And then came the eighth inning, during which Boston dominated with six runs on seven hits to power its 8-1 win over Minnesota.
“Although it didn’t look great in the beginning, I do believe that was our best effort,” manager Alex Cora said of the offense. “… it’s not that we were panicking or speeding up, we were executing our plan, we just missed a few pitches. And then after that, little by little, we did what we did and that was a good offensive effort. Even if it was a 2-1 game final, I was very pleased with the at-bats today. It seems like we’re getting close to who we are.”
And what did that offensive effort look like?
“That’s what we pride ourselves on, you know, having our plan and sticking to it and executing that,” Story said. “Early on, we didn’t do a great job, but as the game went on, I think we did a better job of hitting the ones that we should, and that big inning happened, and that’s how it goes.”
Particularly encouraging for Boston was Story’s effort in the win. Two of the second baseman’s four at-bats on Sunday were hard-hit balls: A 101.3 mph groundout in the second and a 102.6 lineout in the sixth, with his 93.7 mph lineout in the fourth falling just shy of the 95 mph threshold to be considered hard-hit.
“Yeah, it was much better,” Story said of his day. “I feel like each day is getting better, getting more comfortable in there. I’m hitting the ball hard, I want to get it in the air a bit more, but it’s a good sign for me and a move in the right direction.”
Coming into Sunday, Story had just two hard-hit balls out of 13 this season — a 15.4 percent rate, compared to his career rate of 43.3 percent. Though every player faced a shortened spring as a result of the lockout, Story’s ramp-up was particularly brief. The second baseman signed with Boston just two weeks ahead of Opening Day, and then left camp shortly after for the birth of his first child.
One week into the regular season and Story looks to be settling in quite nicely with his new team.
“He’s getting close. He hit the ball hard a few times today; he’s hitting pitches,” Cora said. “Obviously, we know the defender. … Offensively, he’s getting his rhythm. He’ll get [Monday] off. Obviously, we have to be careful with him. But he’ll be ready for Tuesday. But I do believe he’s getting very close to who he is.”