Benny's walk-off blast gives White Sox first series win

Benintendi doubles his extra-base-hit total with a pair of homers, including 10th-inning shot

April 28th, 2024

CHICAGO -- White Sox hitting coach Marcus Thames spoke of his desire for a struggling to focus on being a good hitter and to not think about power just a few days ago, when the team was playing at Target Field.

Following an 8-7 walk-off victory over the Rays in 10 innings on Saturday night, Benintendi’s teammates and a lively crowd of 28,009 at Guaranteed Rate Field were glad he didn’t listen at least on this occasion. Benintendi homered twice, including his first career game-ending blast, giving the White Sox (5-22) their first two-game winning streak in the 2024 season and their first series win after an 0-7-1 start.

Benintendi’s second homer came on a first-pitch sweeper from Phil Maton and covered a projected 401 feet with a 104.3 mph exit velocity, according to Statcast. With the way the wind was whipping, Benintendi wasn’t certain of victory upon solid contact.

“Guess I caught a break with the wind that time,” said Benintendi, who produced his sixth career multihomer game and tied a career high with six RBIs. “Just looking for something up in the zone, something to drive to the outfield. Put a good swing on it.”

“It looked like Benintendi went up there looking for a breaking ball, got a breaking ball,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “You don't fault Phil for trying to get ahead of the guy, and he was ready for it and knocked it out of the ballpark.”

There were no home runs and only four RBIs on Benintendi’s statistical ledger entering game No. 27. He had a slugging percentage of .191 with just two doubles representing his extra-base power.

Starting a season slowly is nothing new for Benintendi, a nine-year veteran. And while power is not his focus, the left-handed hitter knows what he’s capable of in that particular capacity.

“I think it just starts with hard contact and swinging at good pitches,” Benintendi said. “I’ve hit the ball hard this year sometimes. It’s just right at some people. Just trying to be an overall hitter and just drive the ball.”

“He’s just letting it fly now, and he’s letting his eyes do the work, which is, ‘Wherever the ball is pitched, that’s where I’m going to try to hit it,’” manager Pedro Grifol said. “‘And if they’re pitching me in, I’m going to try to pull.’ He’s hitting with bad intentions, and that’s what makes him really good.”

The first Benintendi homer of the season and the contest came in the fourth, a three-run blast off Aaron Civale that helped the White Sox erase a 3-0 deficit in just five total pitches following singles from Eloy Jiménez and Andrew Vaughn. Chicago claimed a 6-4 lead through five, putting rookie right-hander Jonathan Cannon in line for his first career victory.

Cannon didn’t have his best stuff, but he limited the damage to four runs on eight hits in five innings with five strikeouts. Randy Arozarena’s two-run double in the sixth off Dominic Leone left Cannon with a no-decision, but it also set up the exciting finish.

“That was awesome,” said Cannon of the Benintendi-inspired victory. “Fans packed it out tonight. Awesome crowd. It got loud. I'm happy we sent them home happy. Super clutch by Andrew."

“He gave us the pitches, and he gave us five innings,” Grifol said of Cannon. “And these guys came in the bullpen and just really did a good job. It was a gutsy performance on the pitching side. It was really a gutsy performance all the way around.”

Tampa Bay (13-15) took the lead in the top of the 10th on Deivi García’s two-out wild pitch, but Benintendi delivered with one out and pinch-runner Rafael Ortega on third. In just two games, the White Sox topped their 2023 win total against the Rays, when they finished 1-6 and had to score seven in the ninth inning of the final contest to avoid an 0-7 showing.

Those Rays losses represented the debacle that was April 2023. These two wins could be sending the White Sox toward May on a high note, for a team looking for any hope after record-breaking failure to open the campaign.

“Yeah, I mean, it’s been a slow start for us for sure,” Benintendi said. “It’s a long season and still five months of baseball. For us right now, it’s a day at a time. You can’t look too forward ahead when we are in the position we are. Show up every day and just play hard.”

“Everybody participated in this game, which is really, really important,” Grifol said. “If there’s ever an indication of a team win, this is it, right here.”