Benintendi homers in 1st, 11th to power win

September 11th, 2021

MINNEAPOLIS -- doesn’t really know why he has so much success at Target Field, but neither he nor the Royals are complaining about it.

The Royals’ outfielder slugged two homers among his four hits, including the game-winning blast, and drove in five runs in Kansas City’s 6-4 win over the Twins in 11 innings on Friday night.

Two of Benintendi’s five career multi-home run games have now come at Target Field this season, and he is hitting 12-for-24 in Minneapolis this season, including going 4-for-5 on Friday.

“I don’t know,” Benintendi said about hitting at Target Field. “Just nice to look at, I guess. I’ve always liked playing here. Feel like I see the ball well. That’s about all I can come up with.”

The Twins can’t seem to come up with a way to get the left-handed-hitting Benintendi out this season. His first-inning, three-run homer off Twins starter Griffin Jax went 382 feet into the right-field bleachers. He lined a single into right in the fourth inning and another up the middle in the ninth as the game neared extra innings.

Finally in the 11th, with Salvador Perez as the designated runner on second base, Benintendi saw a first-pitch changeup from Juan Minaya hang a little up on the outer half, and Benintendi crushed it 379 feet into the left-field bleachers.

“It feels like every time we play them, no matter what’s going on, he finds a way to be productive, put good swings on the ball,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “At least part of our plan today was to mix things up a little bit, throw some changeups. ... He hit them very good.

“He must like hitting here and all that because he’s been kind of a devastating presence for them throughout the season against us.”

Benintendi was the answer the Royals needed after what began as a home run barrage ended up as a pitcher’s duel. Royals lefty Daniel Lynch gave the lead up right away in the bottom of the first after Benintendi’s homer, with a monster home run to straightaway center field from Byron Buxton followed by a three-run homer by Josh Donaldson.

Lynch and catcher Sebastian Rivero got on the same page after a mound visit in the first inning and were lights out after that. He got through the next five innings, allowing just three more hits and no runs. Lynch’s outing turned from disastrous in the first inning to productive by the end of the sixth. He gave up seven hits total with no walks and four strikeouts, needing 98 pitches total.

After Andrelton Simmons’ two-out single in the fourth inning, Lynch and the Royals bullpen didn’t allow a hit the rest of the night, including Scott Barlow’s clean ninth inning to send it to extras and Greg Holland’s perfect 11th that earned him the save in his first appearance since coming off the injured list.

“This one was probably [Lynch’s] best, in my mind, of how he got backed into a corner with 33 pitches and four loud runs,” manager Mike Matheny said. “For him to end up finishing six innings, what an incredible job of pitching. And then the bullpen to run right through. Guys pitched out of tough situations all the way.”

It was Benintendi who scored the tying run in the fourth on Michael A. Taylor’s double, coming in from first on an aggressive send from third-base coach Vance Wilson. Benintendi ended up being easily safe when shortstop Simmons couldn’t handle the relay throw.

“I just kept booking it knowing Vance might send me,” Benintendi said. “Once I hit second base, I took a look into left-center and saw him grab the ball and my eyes went straight to Vance, and he was waving me.”

Through the first five games of this seven-game road trip, Benintendi has three home runs and tallied 12 RBIs, and Friday's five-RBI effort is his second on this road trip. This comes after he hit just .167 (4-for-24) on the last six-game homestand.

“We’ve been working on a lot and just trying to get on top of the baseball more,” Benintendi said. “I was coming underneath it a lot, so working on a certain move that keeps me on top of the ball. And it seems to be cleaning up a lot of other things, too.”

Benintendi has worked on his bat path all season, trying to stay consistent with the swing he has boasted since his rookie season with the Red Sox and the swing the Royals believed he still had in him when they traded for him last offseason.

And when Benintendi has been healthy this season -- he’s dealt with rib and shoulder injuries -- he’s lived up to that belief.

“He just gets into a great rhythm,” Matheny said. “When he’s healthy, he’s going really strong. … When he’s been rolling, it’s one good at-bat after another.”