Francisco Lindor hits two home runs in the Mets’ home opener

NEW YORK — A team’s condition can often be gauged during a team’s home opener. As players line up to receive individual introductions from the AP announcer, fans clap louder or softer depending on their emotions. Sometimes the crowd gets up. Sometimes it makes fun. Queens has long been known for this kind of behavior; in this borough, booing the head athletic trainer was once an annual rite.

So it’s worth noting on Friday that one of the warmest welcomes at Citi Field went to Francisco Lindor. The shortstop had suffered plenty of boos last season after signing a $341 million contract and generating the wrong kinds of headlines all summer long. Fans were nonetheless eager to offer him absolution.

When they did, Lindor immediately responded with one of his best games as a Met, hitting two homers and driving home three runs in a 10-3 rout of the D-backs.

“It was amazing,” Lindor said. “It was amazing to be hosted by one of the biggest fan bases. It was great to be able to hear my home crowd cheering me on.

Already off to a good start, Lindor followed up with a two-run homer in the fifth inning and a solo shot in the eighth, back to back with Starling Marte. Lindor’s last line also included a walk, a stolen base and three runs scored. He joined José Reyes and Asdrúbal Cabrera as the only Mets shortstops with three career multi-home games.

Realizing all of this, Lindor took a step closer to allaying the concerns of those who feared that her marriage to the Mets was unhealthy.

“That’s what the team is looking for,” Marte said. “The team wants the fans to be behind them every day.”

It was around this time last year that Lindor heard the first strains of what became a regular chorus of boos at Citi Field. Five days into May, Lindor was batting .152. Earlier that month, he drew fire for his “rat or raccoon” fable following a clubhouse confrontation with Jeff McNeil. In mid-July, Lindor was on the disabled list with a significant oblique strain. In August, he once again upset fans with a thumbs-down celebration, prompting many to heckle him even harder.

By any measure, it wasn’t a good first impression for Lindor, who recently admitted that “life was a little faster for me” last summer. Lindor also talked about how this year would be different, and manager Buck Showalter offered an assessment of how that might go.

“Playing better,” said the manager. “No place can turn the page better than where we play. But you control it.

So far, Lindor has done just that, beating .296 with an OPS of 1.161. It took Lindor just eight games to hit his first three home runs, compared to 33 games last season.

“He’s in a good position mentally and emotionally,” Showalter said. “You can tell he’s comfortable with the challenge of playing shortstop for the New York Mets, and not having to be everything for everyone, every day and every second.”

Lindor wasn’t the only redeeming story on Friday in a game that also saw Robinson Canó hit his first home run in 17 months. But Lindor is a much more integral part of that organization, given that his contract runs until 2031. Another poor start would have sparked further annoyance from fans. The team’s supporters, in turn, reportedly continued to question the wisdom of that commitment.

Instead, Lindor returned to being a member in good standing of the Mets. On a day that drew the ninth-largest crowd in stadium history, with many pouring into the car parks early in the morning for a first glimpse of the new Tom Seaver statue, fans were eager for all kinds of positive vibes. As Lindor himself said this spring, fans – even the sometimes caustic, always honest variety of the five boroughs – are generally looking for something to cheer on.

When Lindor provided it, all 43,820 of them knew what to do.

“They’re waiting to kiss you,” Showalter said. “More than any place you play, it’s up to you to give them something to embrace. Today our guys did that.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.