For Andrew Benintendi, an unforgettable catch, a gutsy at-bat, and a new nickname
The hometown nine are playing without a care in the world, and no one seems to be enjoying himself more than Andrew Benintendi.
OK, maybe one person.
Standing at the locker next to Benintendi’s minutes after Boston won its sixth straight, Brock Holt turned to the Red Sox’ precocious left fielder, phone in hand.
“Look at this catch!” Holt exclaimed. “Air Beni!”
The nickname may stick. Or maybe it won’t. But the catch Air Beni made on Wednesday evening at Fenway Park won’t be forgotten any time soon.
It was imperative for David Price to get back on track after a strenuous fourth inning in which the southpaw allowed two runs. Dodgers leadoff man Brian Dozier appeared to keep the train chugging along in the first at-bat of the fifth, lacing a low-arcing fly ball into deep left field for what appeared to be a double off the bat.
Benintendi had other ideas.
The graceful 24-year-old pranced toward the warning track, then took flight, leaping in gazelle-like fashion to snare the baseball.
The still image of Benintendi’s catch was stunning, his limbs splayed out in front of the AL East standings on the Green Monster, his form resembling that of a starfish.
In an underrated move noted by the Globe’s Alex Speier, Benintendi adjusted his path after landing on the warning track to avoid colliding with the Green Monster, something the Red Sox outfielders stress to avoid injury.
“It was a topspin ball and I honestly thought when I jumped that I was going to hit the wall,” said Benintendi. “Thank God I didn’t.”
Though Benintendi said his diving catch in Game 4 of the AL Championship Series against Houston was tougher, laying out to rob Alex Bregman of a walkoff for the game’s final out, his Game 2 grab will be featured prominently on highlight reels across the country.
Yet it was Benintendi’s grinding, gutsy at-bat with two outs in the bottom half of fifth that may have had the biggest impact on the trajectory of the game.
Few will remember it with as much clarity as his catch, but its importance cannot be overstated.
Los Angeles starter Hyun-Jin Ryu was rolling, having recorded two quick outs with his pitch count still in the 50s. Boston countered with back-to-back singles by Christian Vazquez and Mookie Betts, setting the stage for Benintendi.
Benintendi got ahead in the count, taking two straight balls in the dirt. Ryu wasn’t discouraged, getting the lefty to foul off a cutter before plopping in a curveball for a called strike. The fifth pitch was a four-seam fastball that missed inside for a full count.
Ever a fighter, Benintendi battled with his back against the wall, fouling off pitches No. 6 and 7, both curveballs with plenty of bite. Finally, on Ryu’s eighth offering, Benintendi reached base, taking ball four — a 92-mile-per-hour heater — low and away.
“Just anything to keep the line moving,” said Benintendi. “He threw some good pitches and I was able to get a couple swings off and foul them off. All that was with two outs so that was a good inning put together by our team. Just kind of that next-guy-up mentality.”
Benintendi’s perseverance drew Dodgers manager Dave Roberts out of the dugout, the skipper replacing Ryu with reliever Ryan Madson.
That next guy up, first baseman Steve Pearce, walked on five pitches, forcing in Vazquez and tying the game, 2-2. J.D. Martinez followed with a two-RBI single to right, pushing the Red Sox ahead and whipping Fenway into a frenzy.
Boston held on, securing a 2-0 World Series advantage with a spirited 4-2 victory in Game 2.
In the postgame clubhouse, Benintendi sported a wide grin when asked about his newest moniker.
“It’s got a nice little ring to it,” he said.