BOSTON (CBS) — Score one in the win column for John Farrell. The Red Sox manager is probably used to having each and every one of his moves endlessly scrutinized at this point, and sometimes they are not good moves. But he deserves some semblance of credit for shuffling the Red Sox’ lineup in Minnesota over the weekend, because the results have been spectacular.
The key to the team’s massive offensive surge in the past two games? Their 22-year-old phenom, Andrew Benintendi.
Perhaps the Red Sox just needed to see what Benintendi was made of to start his first full season in the major leagues, where he has mostly batted second for his first 30 games. The outfielder has proved that he’s not only capable of batting in the middle of the order, but that he could be a force.
It remains to be seen how consistent Benintendi’s power can be over the course of a full season, but if he can hit more bombs like the two-run shot that he launched out of Target Field on Sunday, the kid is simply going to be a special player.
The Red Sox entered the season with a void of left-handed power in the wake of David Ortiz’s departure, but it appears that Benintendi could give them the boost they needed in that department. He’s now up to five homers and 20 RBIs to go with an impressive .325/.385/.500 slash line on the season after batting .467 with two longballs and five RBIs in the three-game series in Minnesota.
Benintendi himself downplayed questions of whether his approach at the plate changed at all when he moved to the fourth spot in the lineup.
“I approach it the same as any other spot in the lineup,” said Benintendi, via MLB.com. “I’m not going to change my approach or anything, so it was pretty easy.”
Besides his strong individual performance, Benintendi’s move to the cleanup spot has helped solidify the rest of the top half of the Red Sox lineup. It may not have the alternating lefties and righties that Farrell would prefer, but it does have guys slotted into lineup spots that fit their skills the best.
Mookie Betts’ speed is certainly best at the top of the order, while Dustin Pedroia has long been a prototypical No. 2 hitter. Xander Bogaerts is batting .340 with an .810 OPS despite having zero home runs and just six extra-base hits, and still has big upside as a No. 3 hitter. Hanley Ramirez hasn’t been quite consistent enough to stick as a cleanup hitter and is much better suited in the five-hole.
But the key to all of this, to the Red Sox’ sudden explosion of 28 runs in the last two games, has been the presence of Benintendi. The AL Rookie of the Year contender has looked more like a seasoned veteran at the plate. If he can keep cranking homers in the cleanup spot, the Red Sox offense will only continue to surge after a disappointingly slow start.
This story was updated with post-game quotes from Benintendi.