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Benintendi catching fire at the plate

After a slow start, MLB's No. 1 prospect is 6-for-7 in last two games
Special to MLB.com

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- After going hitless in eight February at-bats, the first seven in March have been quite a different story for Red Sox outfielder Andrew Benintendi, MLB Pipeline's No. 1 overall prospect.

As a followup to his 2-for-3 performance with a homer Wednesday versus the Orioles, Benintendi was a triple shy of the cycle on Friday in Boston's 9-1 triumph over the Braves -- and he almost had it in his first at-bat, a hot shot along the first-base line.

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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- After going hitless in eight February at-bats, the first seven in March have been quite a different story for Red Sox outfielder Andrew Benintendi, MLB Pipeline's No. 1 overall prospect.

As a followup to his 2-for-3 performance with a homer Wednesday versus the Orioles, Benintendi was a triple shy of the cycle on Friday in Boston's 9-1 triumph over the Braves -- and he almost had it in his first at-bat, a hot shot along the first-base line.

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"I think my leg is still trying to catch up, because I almost fell coming around second, so I stopped," he said. "Right when I hit it, I was thinking triple."

Benintendi settled for a double, and although he made it to third in his next plate appearance in the third inning, it was only by advancing from his double into the left-center-field gap on a relay throw that caught Marco Hernandez at home.

Both doubles were against Braves ace Julio Teheran, who allowed only one other hit in three innings pitched. Benintendi joined the hit parade against Sam Freeman in Boston's six-run fourth inning, with a two-run single through the hole in the right side.

Before retiring to the clubhouse for the day, Benintendi started the sixth by smacking a line drive over the right-field fence into the Atlanta bullpen on set-up man Arodys Vizcaino's 1-2 pitch for his second homer this spring.

"We've talked so much about how natural and pretty of a swing he has," manager John Farrell said. "But when you get out in front on a split-finger and you're kind of spread out a little bit, and the next 98 mph fastball is pulled down the line for a home run, those aren't things that typically happen. He's got plenty of ability with the bat."

Benintendi attributed the stark contrast from his first three games to the increased aggressiveness he had practiced in the winter.

"I was seeing a lot of pitches the first few games, and now I'm trying to be more aggressive," Benintendi said. "Last year, I was hitting ninth, and that was my job, to see pitches and work the count. I still think I was aggressive at some points last year, but it's something I've been working on."

Farrell said it was too soon to say where Benintendi would hit in the lineup, but he noted that his timing the last two games had been significantly more consistent.

In the outfield, Benintendi caught a pair of Freddie Freeman's flyouts and fielded sharp singles by Dansby Swanson and Kurt Suzuki. His only challenging play was Nick Markakis' leadoff double in the second inning, a blooper near the line that dribbled to the wall after Benintendi misjudged his route.

"I thought I was in a position to get it, but it hit that grass, and it's bouncy out there, so it kind of kicked away," Benintendi said. "I feel like at any other field, that would've checked up a little bit more. I was trying to make a turn and throw to second, keep it to a single. It took, I wouldn't say, a bad hop, just a fast hop."

Zak Kerr is a contributor to MLB.com and covered the Red Sox on Friday.

Boston Red Sox, Andrew Benintendi