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With three home runs, Story removed $140 million worth of pressure

The new guy is going to be alright.

If you're wondering about the odds that the Trevor Story contract works out for the Red Sox, think about what he had already endured before he hit three home runs in the Sox' 12-6 win over the Mariners on Thursday.

As he was negotiating with the Red Sox in spring training, the team's franchise player, Xander Bogaerts, was facing daily questions about his future as the starting shortstop. When Story signed, he was asked to move to a brand new position to appease Bogaerts. Two weeks later, the Sox officially failed to sign Bogaerts to an extension before his Opening Day deadline, essentially sealing Story's fate as Bogaerts' replacement in 2023.

Awkward.

Then the season began and Story got sick. He missed some time. He returned and looked lost at the plate. It was written off as early-season jitters, but nothing changed.

By almost every statistical metric, Story was one of the worst players in baseball through the first month of the season. He wasn't hitting for average. He wasn?t hitting for power. He wasn't even making contact.

He literally threw the game away on April 23 in Tampa, when he couldn't make a routine play at second base and sailed his throw that led directly to an extra-innings loss to the Rays.

He hit rock bottom on May 5, when he went 0-for-4 with four strikeouts against Shohei Ohtani, chucked his bat across the field and got loudly booed by a packed house at Fenway Park.

It looked like a total waste of $140 million as the Red Sox were in last place and seemingly going nowhere.

"Baseball is the most challenging sport in the world," Story said. "I feel like on an everyday basis, you're going to be challenged, especially here (in Boston). It's something that I take a lot of pride in, in trying to be very even-keeled about it all. I just believe that the hard work pays off eventually. But it's very challenging."

When the Sox traveled to Atlanta last week, Story was hitting .194.

If he was going to turn things around, it figured to be a slow climb. Manager Alex Cora praised Story for drawing walks. Any little thing he did seemed like a giant step. He got the monkey off his back with his first homer of the season last week, but said it wasn’t until his first home run at Fenway Park on Monday that he started to feel some of the pressure lift off his shoulders.

After five weeks of looking like one of the worst baseball players on the planet, Story could breathe a little.

When he stepped up with the Sox' behind 4-0 in the second inning on Thursday, Story had a feeling it was going to be a big night.

In his first at-bat, he got a fastball down the pipe and hammered it over the center-field wall for a two-run shot. The next inning, he got a changeup over the plate and crushed that one, too. It cleared everything in left field for another two-run shot, tying the game, 4-4.

"It was a good feeling from the first pitch," he said. "For me, I can tell a lot from my takes and just the way I'm seeing the ball. So yeah, I could tell early on."

He singled in his next at-bat, advanced to second on a bad throw, stole third and scored two batters later.

"He?s playing free and that?s something I told him in the recruiting process, one more athlete to this lineup is going to help us," Cora said. "With him, he has the green light, he can run whenever he wants to."

Story drew a walk his next time up, marking the first time he had been on base four times since his days in Colorado.

His final at-bat in the eighth inning, Story fell behind 1-2, then saw a changeup underneath the zone he thought he could handle. He stayed back, took a giant hack and demolished the pitch onto Lansdowne Street for a three-run shot.

"Just trying to be more balanced, be on time," Story said. "I think that's as simple as I can put it and not try to do too much."

He tied the Red Sox record for most home runs in a game and finished 4-for-4 with three homers, five runs, seven RBI and a stolen base.

This was the game that decimated the pressure and bought Story a whole lot of freedom. In one game, he boosted his average from .205 to .230, his OPS from .613 to .730, his season home run total from two to five and his RBI total from 16 to 23.

He didn't look like a $140-million bust on Thursday night. He looked like he was worth every penny.

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