NEW YORK — Andrew Benintendi hit a pair of three-run homers off Yankee ace Luis Severino in Saturday's 10-5 Red Sox win over the Yankees. Benintendi's performance reminded some of us of Freddie Lynn in 1975.
Lynn was American League MVP and Rookie of the Year in '75 and led the Red Sox all the way to the seventh game of the World Series. He hit .331 with 21 homers and 105 RBIs. He also enjoyed one of the great days at the plate in Red Sox history.
Hop into the Wayback Machine for a moment:
On June 18, 1975, Lynn hit three homers, knocked in 10 runs, and amassed 16 total bases in a 15-1 rout of Detroit in Tiger Stadium. Lynn homered in the first and second innings, then hit a two-run triple in the third. He lined out to second in the fifth, singled in the eighth, and hit a three-run homer in the ninth. Old Tiger Stadium, like new Yankee Stadium, was a friend to sweet-swinging lefthanded batters.
Benintendi's big day was not quite as gaudy as Lynn's, but it played out on national television and he got to play in front of his 85-year-old Brooklyn-born grandfather. The rookie outfielder crushed a three-run shot in the third and another in the fifth, both no-doubters to right field.
"It feels good,'' said the soft-spoken Cincinnati native. "I just got my pitch and put a good swing on it and was fortunate enough for it to go out.''
When told he was the youngest Sox player to have six RBIs in a single game against the Yankees, Benintendi said, "I didn't know that, but I guess that's cool.''
In the mold of Lynn, Benintendi is a baseball natural, and unlikely to boast.
Benintendi is not having the kind of year Lynn had in 1975, but there are plenty of similarities. Benintendi is 22, the same age Lynn was when he was first called to the majors late in the 1974 season. Lynn played his college ball for perennial powerhouse USC. Benintendi played at the University of Arkansas in the esteemed SEC.
Benintendi burst on the Boston baseball scene late last summer and never once looked overmatched. He hit .295 with two homers and 14 RBIs in 34 big league games. He made the catch of the year when the Sox were in Tampa, was sidelined with a knee injury for some of September, then came back to hit a homer in his first postseason at-bat in October.
Benintendi did not play enough to lose his rookie status in 2016 and was odds-on favorite to be American League Rookie of the Year when the Sox broke camp at the end of March. He was the coverboy of Baseball America, touted as the No. 1 prospect in all of baseball.
Then along came Aaron Judge.
Judge effectively ended the Rookie of the Year competition with his ridiculous first half. Almost a foot taller than the 5-foot-9-inch Benintendi (Judge is 6-8), he was touted as the New Face of Baseball. But he has fizzled dramatically since winning the Home Run Derby at the All-Star Game in July. Judge went 0 for 4 with two strikeouts and a double-play grounder Saturday. He's down to .289 with 35 homers and 75 RBIs, but is still the hefty front-runner for rookie honors, if not MVP.
Benintendi, meanwhile, has overcome some rookie doldrums and played a key part of the Sox' improved play over the last 10 days. He's up to .280 with 16 homers and 65 RBIs. He has ceded the ROY honor to Judge ("He deserves it. He's killing it.''), but Benintendi has been the better rookie in the Red Sox-Yankee showdown this weekend.
He left more than 20 tickets for family Saturday.
"My grandpa on my dad's side turned 85 Friday,'' said the outfielder. "He's from Brooklyn. He was a Yankees fan. Not anymore."
Since John Farrell benched Benintendi for two days (July 31-Aug. 1), the Sox rookie is 15 for 31 with four homers and 11 RBIs.
"I'm not missing pitches like I was previously,'' he said. "I got some rest and got my legs back under me. I wasn't physically tired, but it was just kind of a mental break which really helped . . . There was some frustration from not doing well, obviously. It was a chance to sit back and watch the game and relax. I think it was beneficial.''
Asked to assess his rookie season when the Sox were on the West Coast a couple of weeks ago, Benintendi said, "Not bad, but not good. I feel like since April I've been kind of struggling to hit a streak when I go up there and feel I'm in the zone and driving the ball. I'm still trying to find that.''
It seems like he's found it the last couple of days at Yankee Stadium.