Grifol: Andrew Benintendi is ‘hitting with bad intentions’

CHICAGO — Andrew Benintendi, like most of his team, hasn’t had the start he envisioned having over the first month of the season. But after a Saturday night of “hitting with bad intentions,” as manager Pedro Grifol put it, maybe things are starting to look up for him and the rest of the Chicago White Sox lineup.

Going into Chicago’s matchup against the Tampa Bay Rays Saturday, Benintendi was slashing a measly .169/.204/.191 with a single extra-base hit across 57 plate appearances in 18 games.

By night’s end, the man nicknamed “Benny” was 3-5 with two home runs and six RBI’s, which included the game-winning, two-run walk-off home run he hit in the bottom of the tenth inning.

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“[I was] just looking for something up in the zone and something to drive into the outfield,” Benintendi said after the game. “I’ve been through this kind of thing before … I think I’ve had one season where I didn’t start slow.

“[It’s important] just not to panic, just understand that it’s such a long season and I still have 500, 600 at-bats so, hopefully tonight will start something.”

His career monthly splits suggest an uptick in performance is more than possible. Benintendi’s best months as a batter have come in May and June, when he has averaged an OPS of .790 (May) and .822 (June).

Regardless of hot streaks or hitting slumps though, Saturday should go down as one of his more memorable days as a major league hitter.

The walk-off home run he hit was the first walk-off home run of his career, and also marked the sixth time Benintendi’s had a multi-home run game in nearly nine years of big league service.

According to MLB’s Sarah Langs, it was also the first time a White Sox hitter connected on two home runs, including a walk-off home run, in the same game since Tyler Flowers did so on Sept. 8, 2014 against the Oakland Athletics.

“[Benintendi]’s just letting it fly now and he’s letting his eyes do the work, which is wherever the ball is pitched, that’s where I’m trying to hit it,” Grifol said. “He’s hitting with bad intentions and that’s what makes him really good.”

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White Sox hitting coach Marcus Thames recently talked about how he wanted Benintendi to focus on just being a hitter who puts together good at-bats, as opposed to thinking about where the ball should go in different situations.

“I think it just starts with hard contact and swinging at good pitches,” Benintendi said. “I think I’ve hit the ball hard this year, sometimes its just right at some people so, it’s nice to see that one fall.”

Lineup wide, the White Sox probably agree it’s been nice to see hits fall over the last two days.

Chicago has scored 17 runs in two games against the Rays, as compared to the 18 runs they scored in their previous six games combined.

Their offensive outburst against Tampa Bay also coincided with the arrival of Tommy Pham, who was signed by the White Sox two weeks ago and after spending a four-game stint with their Triple-A affiliate, the Charlotte Knights, joined the big league club Friday.

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In two games since joining Chicago at the MLB level, Pham has turned in back-to-back 2-5 performances with a run scored, in what have been Chicago’s two best offensive performances of the season.

“He brings a h*ll of a lot more than a professional at-bat. I mean, he’s all business,” Grifol said after the game Saturday. “[He’s] a presence that kind of carries over to other guys … He goes hard in everything he does.”

Benintendi echoed his manager’s sentiments postgame, saying guys on the roster know Pham is a capable hitter, but his impact on the ballclub is also noticeable just by the energy he’s provided in his short time since joining the team.

“Tommy’s showed up and everybody knows what he can do with the bat, [but] he’s also a good presence in the clubhouse,” Benintendi said. “It’s been fun to get to know him the last two days and I’m looking forward to that for the remainder of the year.”

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