Benintendi keeps climbing out of the valley Judge is now in

From ESPN - August 12, 2017

NEW YORK -- The verdict was rendered before the All-Star break: Aaron Judge was the runaway favorite to be the American League Rookie of the Year.

There was not much Andrew Benintendi could do about it.

Now, however, there is still time for Benintendi to emerge from this season as the more advanced, closer-to-complete player of the two high-profile young stars in the ongoing New York Yankees-Boston Red Sox drama. He does not have a dedicated rooting section in his home ballpark or a hashtag that plays off his surname. But Benintendi has been where Judge is at the moment and has found his way out of the darkness of a confidence-shaking slump. The proof came Saturday in the Bronx.

With the Red Sox still feeling the sting of a late-inning defeat one night earlier and the Yankees jumping to an early two-run lead, Benintendi slugged the first of two three-run homers against hard-throwing Luis Severino and carried Boston to a feel-good, 10-5 victory.

Benintendi's big day came with his grandfather, Robert, a Brooklyn native and recovering Yankees fan living in the Cincinnati area, in the stands as a gift for his 85th birthday. Benintendi's big day also continued a torrid two-week stretch that followed a team-imposed two-day breather intended to clear his head and help the 23-year-old remember everything that has made him one of the game's most promising young players.

"There was some frustration from not doing well," said Benintendi, who is 15-for-31 with three doubles and four homers since he was benched for back-to-back games July 31 and Aug. 1. "[To] just kind of sit back, watch the game and relax, I think was beneficial."

Judge would likely find a similar break to be useful, and if the Yankees were not scratching for every victory to keep pace in a pennant race, they might consider giving it to him.

After taking the league by storm in the first half with titanic home runs that inspired the "Judge's Chambers" adjacent to the right-field bleachers at Yankee Stadium as well as #AllRise, which has essentially become a permanent trending topic on Twitter, the hulking slugger is 15-for-93 (.161) with only five homers and 43 strikeouts since the All-Star break. He has been particularly susceptible to sliders and elevated fastballs and has whiffed at least once in 29 consecutive games, which puts him three away from tying Adam Dunn's major league record.

Benintendi understands the depths of the valley Judge is currently in.

Before the season began, Benintendi was all but preordained as the Rookie of the Year, based on his pedigree at the University of Arkansas, his 15-month ascent through the minor leagues and his promising debut late last season. But then came a pair of slumps in May and July. For all his initial success, pitchers were changing the way they attacked him and finding new ways to get him out, just as they are doing now to Judge. That's life in the big leagues.


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