Maybe it was just coincidence or maybe the Yankees truly did push Francisco Lindor to perform at the elite level the Mets expected all along this season by making him angry about their alleged whistling from the dugout.
Either way, Lindor put on a spectacular show Sunday night at Citi Field with three home runs, including the game-winner in the eighth inning as the Mets outlasted the Yankees, 7-6, and got in the last word as well on a wild night of flaring tempers and trash-talking.
With all of that in mind, maybe the Mets need to find a way to make their shortstop angry more often.
Because as Luis Rojas said after the game, “This is the Francisco that we all knew, that we all expected to see.”
Yes, this was the superstar the Mets committed $341 million to over the next 10 seasons, rising up to win a big game practically single-handedly, rather than the Lindor who has underperformed for most of his first year in New York and essentially admitted to being affected by boos from the fans.
So perhaps this is a turning moment in Lindor’s career, a night when he was given the hero treatment by the fans and responded in kind, giving them the curtain call they asked for after his tie-breaking home run in the eighth.
Ah, yes, love was in the air, and Lindor was willing to say it mattered to him.
“I’ve been getting booed for a very long time so it felt good,” Lindor said on his Zoom interview. “We all want that moment because we do it for the fans and we do it for the organization.”
As such, Lindor was asked if he now felt like a New Yorker.
“I don’t have the accent yet,” he said with his signature smile. “But I love the city. I live in the city and I love it.”
Let’s not be naïve, of course, for baseball is a sport full of failure on the offensive side that inevitably leads to booing from time to time, but no doubt Lindor needed a night like this to win over at least a percentage of the fans who hold him to the highest of standards, based on the size of his contract.
Antagonizing the Yankees as he did won’t hurt his cause with the fans, either.
And indeed what was most impressive about Lindor’s night was that his game-winner came not long after Giancarlo Stanton had prompted a bench-clearing incident during his own home run trot by telling the Mets’ shortstop to stop his trash talking.
It all made for great theater as the Mets took offense at what happened Saturday night, when the Yankees hit three home runs off Taijuan Walker in the second inning, allegedly benefiting from either Walker tipping pitches or perhaps their own players stealing signs.
Jonathan Villar told ESPN reporter Marly Rivera that the Yankees had been whistling from the dugout during that inning to communicate to hitters what type of pitch Walker was about to throw.
All of which is fair game, by the way, and nothing like what the Astros were famously doing in 2017, using a TV camera to steal signs in real time and communicate to hitters by banging a trash can.
Nevertheless, the Yankees flatly denied they were whistling for effect, saying that the only whistling was coming from pitcher Wandy Peralta, who whistles to “try to liven up the dugout,” according to Joey Gallo.
Whatever the case, it gave the Mets something to use for motivation — Lindor especially it seemed.
“I can’t accuse them of whistling for signs, but I know what I heard,” he said. “I felt something out of the ordinary was going on and I took that personally. I wanted to do something.”
He did something all right, and after his second home run of the night he gestured while rounding the bases toward his friend Gleyber Torres, putting his fingers into his mouth as if to whistle.
“I told him, ‘keep on whistling,’ “ Lindor later related.
That prompted Stanton, upon hitting a game-tying home run in the seventh inning, to call out Lindor on his way around the bases telling him, “Stop talking bleep.”
Stanton finished his home run trot but players from both teams came running onto the field as the trash-talking escalated and Brett Gardner even mocked Lindor and Javier Baez by giving them the thumbs-down gesture that sparked so much controversy around the Mets a couple of weeks ago.
Nothing else came of it until Lindor came to the plate an inning later and launched his third home run of the night, and 17th of the season, turning on a 97-mph fastball from Chad Green to right-center to give the Mets the lead that Edwin Diaz turned into a win by closing out the ninth inning.
Afterward, Lindor said he wasn’t looking for a fight, but admitted he was so worked up that “coming to the box (in the eighth), I did want to hit a home run. Baez had to tell me to calm down.”
So maybe angry Lindor is what the Mets need most now.
After all, they’ve looked ordinary at best for weeks now, yet remain in striking distance of a postseason berth, only three games out of the second Wild Card spot. Perhaps they needed something extraordinary to launch a strong finishing kick to their season, something like Lindor being the Lindor they expected this season.
All the better if they have the Yankees to thank for that.
Source: Yahoo Sports