'Air Benny' soaring to new heights in October

Left fielder dazzles again with leaping grab, draws key walk

October 25th, 2018

BOSTON -- When two of your teammates are likely to finish first and second in voting for the American League MVP Award, it's easy to sneak under the radar and just be a normal, good player on a tremendous team overflowing with stars.

Perform superhumanly in the postseason, though, and that can be life-changing, at least in the short term. If had any illusions of maintaining his anonymity this October, he can probably assume that's over.

:: World Series schedule and results ::

This is all good news for Benintendi and the Red Sox, who are two wins from a World Series championship after a 4-2 victory Wednesday night in Game 2 at Fenway Park in the best-of-seven series with the Dodgers.

Offensively, the Red Sox have been relentless. Defensively, they're nearly perfect. And a lot of the credit can be given to Benintendi, who, by the time Boston had nailed down the win for a 2-0 Series lead, had gained a new nickname in the Twittersphere -- "Air Benny."

That name stemmed from his spectacular fifth-inning catch that robbed of a leadoff double. Benintendi sprinted toward the corner in left, did half-splits while airborne, and came up with the ball on a leaping catch.

Dress for Fall Classic in Red Sox gear

The catch helped record a 1-2-3 inning and maintained what was a one-run deficit.

"It was a top-spun ball," Benintendi said. "I honestly thought when I jumped I was going to hit the wall, but thank God I didn't."

That catch was one of several contributions the 24-year-old left fielder has made this October. Benintendi's game-ending snag of a sinking liner in Game 4 of the AL Championship Series in Houston set the Sox up to clinch the pennant the next day. In Game 1 of the World Series, he logged four hits in five at-bats, all against left-handers.

And in Game 2, Benintendi had a game-changing plate appearance in the fifth inning that will be remembered far longer than the 0-for-3 in the box score.

In an eight-pitch showdown with Dodgers starter , Benintendi walked to load the bases, and he scored Boston's third run of the inning on J.D. Martinez's hit off .

"Anything to just keep the line moving," Benintendi said. "[Ryu] threw some good pitches, and I was able to get a couple swings off and foul them off. All that was with two outs, that was a good inning for our team. Just kind of that next-guy-up mentality."

On a team where most of the attention is absorbed by AL MVP Award candidates Martinez and , Benintendi is carving his own place in the Red Sox's rich postseason lore. He is the first hitter in Major League history with three-plus runs and four-plus hits in his World Series debut, and this postseason, he has 13 hits in 46 at-bats, including four doubles, and has scored 13 runs.

"He's so complete," said first baseman Mitch Moreland. "He can affect the game in a lot of different ways. Four big hits, I think he scored three runs for us [in Game 1], really getting it going. He does a little bit of it all. He steals bags, he makes plays defensively, he's a great player at a young age. He's going to be good for a long time. He's done a great job so far."

Just three years removed from being drafted by the Red Sox in the first round and one year after finishing as the AL Rookie of the Year Award runner-up, Benintendi has already carved out a reputation as one of Boston's most complete players -- on baseball's biggest stage.

"Everybody's out there busting their butt to win," he said. "It doesn't always have to be a hit, an RBI, whatever. Any way to contribute. We've got guys up and down the lineup that contribute in several ways. Whether it be at the plate or defensively or starting pitching. Regardless you're always looking to do something to help the team win."