BALTIMORE -- The Red Sox got their American League Rookie of the Year candidate back on Sunday.Technically, Andrew Benintendi hadn't gone anywhere. He was in the lineup on most days.• Cast your Esurance All-Star ballot for Benintendi and other #ASGWorthy playersBut the sweet swing that has made Benintendi such a
BALTIMORE -- The Red Sox got their American League Rookie of the Year candidate back on Sunday.
Technically, Andrew Benintendi hadn't gone anywhere. He was in the lineup on most days.
• Cast your Esurance All-Star ballot for Benintendi and other #ASGWorthy players
But the sweet swing that has made Benintendi such a pure hitter most of his life had abandoned him for a few weeks, leading to the first prolonged slump of his professional career.
When Benintendi broke out to help lead the Red Sox to a 7-3 victory over the Orioles on getaway day, he did so in a big way, clocking two solo homers and adding a third hit and RBI with an insurance single in the top of the ninth.
"It's been awhile since he got the contact point out front," said Red Sox manager John Farrell. "It was clearly good to see Beni get off the schneid a little bit with those extra-base hits today."
The extra-base hits had completely vanished from Benintendi's arsenal in a three-week stretch that preceded Sunday. In 73 at-bats dating back to May 10, the left fielder had slashed .123/.221/.137 with no homers, five RBIs and only one extra-base hit, a double.
Then, came the Sunday surge.
It was hard to detect much of a difference in Benintendi's demeanor after the game. The 22-year-old is known for his unflappable nature.
"Just another game. Balls fall this time," said Benintendi.
A slight smile came over Benintendi's face when a reporter mentioned to him that the balls were actually falling into the stands.
It all started changing in the third inning, when Benintendi turned on a 1-0 fastball from Chris Tillman and smacked it over the wall in right to tie the game at 3. The drive had a launch angle of 41 degrees, Benintendi's best of his nine career homers.
He was at it again in the seventh, when Benintendi hammered a 94.1-mph fastball for another shot to right that Statcast™ registered with an exit velocity of 107.1 mph and a projected distance of 388 feet.
So what was the difference?
"I think more than anything he's getting his foot down without lunging too far forward, and it's kind of difficult to see because he's so fluid and graceful in the box," said Farrell. "He's behind the swing right now and that's where his power is."
Much of Benintendi's power actually comes from being strong of mind.
"It's baseball. You're going to go through those kind of things. I think mentally you just have to stay strong and I think that's one thing that I can do pretty well is mentally stay there," said Benintendi.
Sunday started like any other day for Benintendi. He worked with hitting coaches Chili Davis and Victor Rodriguez in hopes that his results would change.
"I mean, yeah, being in a slump stinks because you want to be hitting and helping the team win but I came to the field every day excited to get at-bats and work in the cage and to find that swing again," Benintendi said. "That's part of where you just mentally stay there and never check out. I was excited to come here and work with Chili and Vic and excited to get those [at-bats] in the game to hopefully find that swing again."
Benintendi's big day helped make a winner out of Chris Sale, who gave up three runs and threw 39 pitches in the first before settling down the rest of the day.
"Obviously we needed it too," said Sale. "For him to step up today, that was big time."
Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook