Francisco Lindor served up a powerful reminder to New York Mets fans Sunday of what he can do at the plate. For one night at least, a difficult season for Lindor went into the rearview mirror as he slugged three homers in a back-and-forth 7-6 win over the New York Yankees. It took until September, but the 27-year-old shortstop finally provided a glimpse of what the Mets paid the big bucks for this past offseason. The breakthrough game for Lindor also featured some controversy, including a whistling gesture and a jawing match with Giancarlo Stanton.
Lindor Finally Achieves Breakthrough with Mets
Needless to say, the 2021 season has not gone according to plan for Lindor. Expectations were high after signing a 10-year, $341 million extension with the Mets following his acquisition from the Cleveland Indians. This included a record $43.3 million payout for 2021. However, Lindor has struggled offensively all season, slashing .229/.326/.408 with a 103 OPS+, all career lows. Possible reasons for his struggles include added pressure from playing in New York, along with the big payday. Whatever the reason, Lindor has acknowledged he hasn’t gotten the job done at the plate this year. “We haven’t really hit all year long. I haven’t performed. I haven’t done it,” he said in an August interview, prior to his return from the injured list. “Offensively, criticize me and say whatever you want, because you are right. They are all right.”
On Sunday night, Lindor shifted the narrative when he had his signature game in a Mets uniform. He hit three home runs: a three-run shot in the second inning and two solo shots in the sixth and eighth. The latter ended up being the deciding blow, as Edwin Diaz held on in the ninth to preserve a wild 7-6 win over the Yankees.
For the first time this season, Lindor fully demonstrated why the Mets gave him the third-richest contract in MLB history. Sure, he’s always been a stout defender at shortstop, and this season is no exception. Guys do not get paid that much solely for defensive purposes, however. Lindor’s tenure as a Met will be defined by his prowess (or lack thereof) at the plate. His bat needed to wake up eventually, and it did in a big way on Sunday. If this means Lindor finally turned the corner, it will inspire confidence in the Mets front office and their fanbase.
Lindor at Center of On-Field Fireworks
What makes Lindor’s performance even more impressive was the heated circumstances surrounding it. The Mets suspected all series that the Yankees were relaying pitch signs from the dugout by whistling. As Lindor rounded the bases on his second homer, he put his hand to his mouth pretending to whistle, clearly trolling the Yankees. During the Yankees’ next turn in the seventh, Giancarlo Stanton hit a two-run bomb to tie the game 6-6. When he rounded second base, he turned to Lindor at short and began jawing at him, evidently upset at his gesture. This caused the benches to clear, but luckily it never got physical.
During the postgame, Lindor said he wasn’t sure whether or not the Yankees were relaying signs, but suspected they were. “I felt there was something out of the ordinary going on,” he said. “I’m not saying they’re [relaying signs] 100 percent, but it definitely felt that way and I took it personally.”
Regardless of the veracity of Lindor’s claim, he showed a competitive fire that both he and the Mets had been lacking for months. He called out the Yankees directly and backed it up in his next at-bat. It was this combination of intense competitiveness and on-field results the Mets expected when they acquired him. It was the breakthrough performance Lindor and the Mets waited all season for. If Lindor can compile multi-hit, multi-RBI games more consistently, he will become a beloved Met in the very near future.
Main Photo: Embed from Getty Images