When the Kansas City Royals acquired Andrew Benintendi in a three-team trade with the Boston Red Sox and the New York Mets, they hoped they were getting the 2016-2019 version as opposed to the 2020 edition.
Thus far, it looks like they did.
Benintendi hopes to keep up a recent hot streak when the Royals host the Minnesota Twins in the opener of a four-game series on Thursday. He has raised his batting average to .291 and his OPS to .749 following his strong play of late.
The Twins will send J.A. Happ (3-2, 5.24 ERA) to the mound to face fellow left-hander Kris Bubic (1-0, 1.52) in the series opener.
Benintendi, who hit for a .277 average and an .820 OPS in his first four seasons, slumped to a .103 batting average and a .442 OPS in 2020.
Perhaps putting too much pressure on himself early in the season, Benintendi was hitting .225 with a .624 OPS at the end of April. But May was much kinder to the left fielder. He hit .340 with an .821 OPS, causing manager Mike Matheny to place him third in the batting order.
June looks even better, although one game admittedly is too small of a sample size. In Tuesday’s 10-5 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates, Benintendi went 2-for-5 with a grand slam and five RBIs.
“I understand the player that I am and what I can do on a consistent, day to day basis,” Benintendi said. “I try to go up there and try to hit the ball hard. That’s all I can control. Swing at good pitches, control the zone, try to barrel it up.”
With an off-day Wednesday, the Royals sit a game above .500 after winning 11 of their last 17 games.
“I hope it’s the last time we look at (.500) and all we do now is keep adding tallies,” Matheny said. “I don’t want this team ever thinking about being a .500 club. We talk about having high expectations for ourselves, and it comes with nightly figuring out ways to keep us above that line.”
Bubic is a big part of keeping the team above the .500 mark. He’ll be making his second straight start against the Twins, after limiting them to one run on four hits in six innings on Friday in Minneapolis.
The Twins are besieged with injuries, missing their top five outfielders, the starting catcher and three pitchers. Adding to the list was reliever Caleb Thielbar, who left Wednesday’s game in Baltimore with a mild groin strain.
The latest injury to take its toll was a groin contusion sustained by catch Mitch Garver, who was struck by a foul ball Tuesday night. On Wednesday, he announced on Instagram that he had undergone successful surgery.
“I did leave the game last night with a ‘groin contusion,’ and had to go to the emergency room for an ultrasound,” he wrote. “The imagining showed I needed surgery. A successful surgery was performed and I stayed the night in the hospital. I’m resting well.”
Manager Rocco Baldelli said Garver would miss “a bare minimum of a couple of weeks.”
Happ will be making his second straight start against the Royals. He picked up the win on Saturday when he allowed two runs on three hits in five innings of a 6-5 victory. He struck out five batters, and has fanned 15 batters in his last two starts.
–Field Level Media