Trevor Story has had a notable past two days, coming up both big and costly for the Boston Red Sox. And in both scenarios, it was game-altering play.

Saturday, Story’s two-out throwing error put Taylor Walls on base and allowed the ghost runner to come across and score — to make it 2-1 — instead of ending the affair. That brought up Kevin Kiermaier to face Hansel Robles, who cranked a two-run walkoff homer over Jackie Bradley Jr. and into the right field seats.

“Just a bad throw,” Story said. “I probably had a little more time than I thought. But that’s just on me. That’s all on me, for sure… That throw’s gotta be made every single time in my book.”

Though Story was hard on himself, acting manager Will Venable, who is managing the club until Alex Cora returns from COVID and is usually the team’s bench coach, was indulgent of the error.

“It’s a tough play,” Venable said. “Unbelievable play just to stop the ball. A ball that he’s got to get rid of quickly. And it didn’t go our way.”

But, despite making an error in the winning effort, Story was the hero on the defensive side of things in Friday’s series opening victory. With two outs in the ninth, the score at 4-3 and the bases loaded, Wander Franco lined a 100.9 mph ground ball to the left of Story, who hurried to it and slid before ending the ballgame with a throw on to first. It was a game-saving play that could have resulted in a walkoff for Tampa.

“I felt like I had a good beat on it the entire time,” Story said. “It was just a matter of if I was going to dive or slide. Franco can run. So a slide and pop-up was the quicker way to do it.”

Jake Diekman was pulled after he loaded the bases, and Matt Barnes came on and got Franco via the groundout, who had homered twice in the ballgame already.

“Those are the situations that we kind of live for. Story made an unbelievable play,” said Barnes. “Two of them in the inning actually.”

For Story, that’s also not it. For the past three days, including today, he’s been the team’s leadoff hitter, and he’s moved Kiké Hernandez down to the fifth spot in the lineup. While this may be for just Venable’s short tenure as the temporary manager of the club, as he’s been the manager for each of those three days.

Story led off on Hernandez’s off day, the day that Alex Cora tested positive for COVID. Before he left the ballpark and found out of his positive test, he spoke on Story potentially being a leadoff hitter more often.

“He’s very athletic, he brings the base running part to the equation,” Cora said. “One thing we haven’t done is put pressure on the opposition. I think we have one steal attempt and it was on a 3-2 count. That wasn’t actually about stealing the base. It was trying to stay away from a double play. Just to be a little bit more dynamic, we’ll think about it. If we have to re-adjust, we’ll do it.”

Cora, someone who’s a fan of more old-school things like bunting and stealing, will be provided with an annual 10-20 base-stealer at the leadoff spot if he continues to put him there. J.D. Martinez being out for the fourth straight day also has something to do with the lineup construction though — Venable said Friday that that was the case.

“I think really just the lineup construction (Friday) is about just balancing it out with J.D. not in there,” said Venable. “That was the messaging from Alex.”

Paxton sets return date goal

James Paxton’s bullpen sessions have picked up in asperity, now throwing 30 pitches per bullpen, and he’s set a goal for when he plans on returning from Tommy John surgery.

“I’d like to get back as soon as possible,” Paxton said Saturday, according to MassLive.com. “My goal is to be back before the All-Star Break. So we’ll see. I think that there’s a chance I could be back anywhere between late June and early July if everything goes really smoothly. But we’ll have to see how things progress here.”

Chris Sale will be rehabbing with Paxton in Fort Myers once the Tampa Bay series is over, which the series finale is today. They’ll drive to the facility together.

“It’s (about) feeling really good, making really good progress, slowly turning up the dial each time, which is the goal here just to let everything adapt. I imagine I’ll throw a 35-pitch bullpen when I get back to Fort Myers — 30 or 35 (pitches). And then continue just to add those pitches until I get to live BPs, which will be I believe sometime in early May.”

Paxton’s $10-million deal is a one-year agreement, though it can be extended with the two option years available for Boston to pick up. The option clause might pose as a little confusing, but to sum it up, he can be extended for two more years, and if all the options are picked up, the deal could be close to $35 million.

“For me, it was just a good opportunity with having this year to kind of get back out there and then having the two different options for next year. There’s the team option that the Red Sox can pick up, which is another two years on top of this year.

“And then I kind of have like a safety-net player option for next year if I come back not feeling great (this year) and I’m still kind of ironing some things out. I can come back next year and try to get on track whereas if I come back and pitch really well this year, the Red Sox need to pick me up or I can head back to free agency.”

Notes

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