2017-08-13 13:32:03
Boston’s Andrew Benintendi Picks Up Where Aaron Judge Left Off

13:32, August 13 31 0

Andrew Benintendi did not quite invade the Judge’s Chambers on Saturday.

Even after Benintendi, a Red Sox outfielder, hit two three-run homers in a 10-5 Boston victory at Yankee Stadium, it seemed premature to inject him into the conversation about the American League Rookie of the Year Award — a discussion that has been monopolized by the Yankees’ Aaron Judge, for whom that remote section of seats beyond the right-field fence has been rechristened.

But if Benintendi’s entire 2017 season had resembled the last 12 days, he would be challenging Judge for the award. He might even have his own special section at Fenway Park. (Benny’s Bleachers?)

Benintendi, 23, had the kind of game on Saturday that has exemplified most of Judge’s season — particularly April, May and June, when it seemed as if there were no other rookie in baseball worth talking about.

The two homers on Saturday came off Yankees starter Luis Severino and gave Benintendi 16 for the season, fewer than half of Judge’s total of 35. Benintendi’s batting average (.280), runs batted in (68) and on-base plus slugging percentage (.807) still lag well behind Judge’s .289, 78 and 1.026.

But in August, Benintendi has batted .484, with 15 hits in 31 at-bats, including four homers and 11 R.B.I. Over the same period, Judge has hit .147 (5 for 34) with one home run and three R.B.I.

As Benintendi became the youngest player in Red Sox history to collect six R.B.I. in a game against the Yankees, Judge went 0 for 4 with two strikeouts and hit into a double play. Benintendi’s show of power made him the first Red Sox player to hit two three-run homers in a game against the Yankees since Jimmie Foxx in 1938.

And to think Benintendi started the month on the bench. Red Sox Manager John Farrell gave him two days off to clear his head during a 6-for-43 slump that dropped his average to .262. At that point, Benintendi had not hit a home run since July 4.

“Since those couple of days down, he’s been right in the middle of a lot of offensive big innings for us,” Farrell said. “I can’t say fundamentally anything’s changed, just that pitches he’s gotten over the plate he hasn’t missed. He’s got a beautiful swing, and he’s a natural-looking hitter.”

Benintendi played in front of 22 relatives on Saturday, including his paternal grandfather, Robert, who grew up in Brooklyn and made the trip to Yankee Stadium from his home in Cincinnati. He saw his grandson rope a 1-1 fastball from Severino into the right-field seats in the third inning with two runners on, capping a five-run inning that wiped out the lead that Gary Sanchez’s two-run homer had given the Yankees in the first.

Two innings later, Benintendi jumped on a hanging slider and launched a high, arcing blast that landed deep in the right-field bleachers, beyond the Judge’s Chambers but close enough for the robed and bewigged fans there to get a good look at its downward flight.

“I got a good view of it,” Yankees third baseman Todd Frazier said. “He’s in a good groove right now, and everything probably looks like a balloon to him.”

For Benintendi, who hit a solo homer off Jaime Garcia in the Yankees’ 5-4 victory on Friday, it was also a continuation of his mastery over Severino, against whom he is has six hits in 11 career at-bats.

“I can’t explain that,” Benintendi said. “You know whatever’s coming is going to be hard. It’s not easy to make an adjustment. But the velocity kind of helps.”

Farrell played down the idea of a rivalry between Benintendi and Judge, who both generally bat third in their teams’ batting orders but cut strikingly different figures at the plate. Judge is listed as 6 feet 7 inches and 282 pounds, Benintendi at 5-10 and 170.

“I don’t know if there’s a one-on-one competition, so to speak,” Farrell said. “Any time you get players like that on this kind of stage, it brings out the best in all the guys.”

Asked if he was somehow trying to match Judge at his own game in his own ballpark, Benintendi said: “No, not at all. He’s having a great year, and he’s kind of struggling right now. I went through that for two months. I’m sure he’ll figure it out.”