CHICAGO — It has reached the point of absurdity. It seems impossible that it should continue, and yet it does.
On Thursday against the White Sox, Trevor Story added to a run-producing binge that a team sees once a generation, if that. The Red Sox second baseman went 2-for-4 with a homer, a walk, and a steal, while once again — pardon us if you’ve heard this before — driving in four runs in a 16-7 Red Sox victory in Chicago.
“It’s cool to see,” said manager Alex Cora. “ This is the player we envisioned.’’
Yet while Story – batting fifth – once again served as the fulcrum of the Red Sox offense, going 2 for 4 with 4 RBIs, he was flanked by a Red Sox offense that continued its top-to-bottom transformation into an unrelenting run-scoring machine over the past fortnight. All nine Red Sox starters had hits, including three — Alex Verdugo (4-for-6, 2 doubles, 3 RBIs), J.D. Martinez (3-for-5, walk), and Christian Vázquez (3-for-5, 2 RBI) — who had at least three.
Story was part of a Red Sox ambush of Chicago starter Dallas Keuchel in the first inning. Leadoff hitter Kiké Hernández deposited the lefthander’s second pitch of the game into the left field bleachers for an instant 1-0 lead, the second time in the three-game series that Hernández went deep while leading off the first.
A double by Rafael Devers and single by Martinez put runners on the corners, and after a Xander Bogaerts pop-up, Story laced a single to left to put the Sox up, 2-0. Alex Verdugo followed with an RBI double to put the Sox up by a field goal after a half-inning.
The Red Sox kept the pedal down against Keuchel in the second. Devers smashed a 114 mile-per-hour double off the fence in right — his hardest hit ball of the year — and after Martinez walked, Story golfed a Keuchel cutter that kissed the sky before settling just over the fence in left for his ninth homer of the year and a 6-0 lead.
With the blast, Story added to a remarkable stretch in which he has shoe-horned a career’s worth of highlights into a week.
He has driven in at least four runs on four separate occasions in his last seven games, with his 21 RBI in seven games representing a Red Sox record for at least the last century. (The MLB record for that time is 23.) He had driven in fewer runs through his first 32 games this year — 16 — than he has in the last week. His 32 RBI in May are the most by a Red Sox in any month since Rafael Devers drove in 34 in July 2019.
“I really feel like every time I go to hit, there’s one or two guys on. So that’s a credit to everyone giving me a chance, that opportunity to drive them in,” said Story. “There have been great at-bats I feel like for the past two weeks from up and down the lineup. It’s just been a group effort.”
Story’s seven homers in as many games are tied for the most in Red Sox history, a feat most recently authored by David Ortiz en route to a franchise record 54 homers in 2006. Only once in big league history — Brian Dozier, who hit eight in a seven-game cluster in 2016 — has a second baseman hit more homers over a seven-game run.
“Times like this are rare,” said Story, who cited his big league debut — when he became the first player ever to homer in his first four big league games — as the only comparable run of his career. “Great feelings thinking about that time, but trying to just live in the moment and have good at-bats when I can.”
Yet even with Story adding to his personal highlight reel, the Red Sox’ early 6-0 advantage did not permit an unopposed march to victory. Boston starter Michael Wacha’s pitch-to-contact plan of attack rendered him vulnerable to the White Sox – and particularly to Chicago rightfielder Andrew Vaughn.
Three straight White Sox singles loaded the bases to open the bottom of the third, and Vaughn unloaded them by ripping an RBI double to right that made the game 6-3.
The Red Sox tacked on an insurance run to make it 7-3 in the fifth when Story walked, stole second, and scored on another Verdugo double. But Vaughn countered in the bottom of the inning by scorching a Wacha cutter into the left field stands for a two-run homer that made it 7-5 with one out in the fifth.
The narrowing score prompted Alex Cora to summon John Schreiber from the bullpen, and the righthander continued his revelatory run out of the Sox bullpen. Schreiber quickly dispatched two batters to end the fifth and followed with a perfect sixth, giving him 12 innings this year in which he has yet to allow either an earned run or walk.
“He’s not afraid,” said Cora. “He’s been great.”
The Red Sox lineup two more runs in the top of the seventh, as RBI singles by the bottom two hitters in the lineup — Vázquez and Christian Arroyo — pushed the visitor’s advantage to 9-5 in the top of the seventh.
The Sox tacked on two more in the eighth, with Verdugo lacing an RBI single for his fourth hit of the night and Vázquez delivering another RBI single, his third hit of the night.
The night proved particularly reassuring for Verdugo, the one Red Sox player who — despite some loud contact — had put up disappointing numbers (.188/.233/.261) through the team’s offensive surge in May.
“I wasn’t trying to do too much,” said Verdugo. “I kind of just went back to just give myself the best opportunity to see the ball and swing at a strike and was able to put some good swings on some balls.”
The Red Sox then piled on with a five-run eighth to blow the game open, and Kevin Plawecki came off the bench to line a two-run homer off White Sox infielder-turned-blowout-pitcher Josh Harrison in the ninth. Their 16-run eruption was their second in three days in Chicago, and left them with 112 runs (7.5 per game) over their last 15 contest.
The final innings featured one unsettling development for the Red Sox, as reliever Matt Barnes walked four of the five batters he faced and threw just nine of 27 pitches for strikes before being pulled. But the Red Sox had plenty of padding to withstand his poor performance.
With the win, the Red Sox claimed two of three in Chicago for their fourth straight series win. They’ve won 10 of their last 13 to improve to 21-23 on the year.
“To get to .500 is important. We’re almost there, but we’ve still got work to do,” said Cora. “Let’s get to .500 when we get back home and then we’ll take off from there.”