Under-the-weather Francisco Lindor plays hero for Mets as 'role player' off the bench

The best way to wash the sour taste from the Mets’ mouths after their 1-0 loss to the Chicago Cubs on Wednesday night, when they were doubled off at home plate on a controversial call to end the game, would be to come out Thursday afternoon and find a way to win and split the four-game series.

It took them a little bit to get going – they entered the fifth inning down 4-0 – but slowly and surely, New York fought back. That fight coincided with Francisco Lindor’s entrance into the game in the sixth inning.

Having to leave Wednesday’s game in the third inning with flu-like symptoms, Lindor said he felt better on Thursday and lobbied to manager Carlos Mendoza to put him in the starting lineup. But with a day game after a night game, the skipper wanted to be smart with his shortstop and decided to keep him out of the lineup, at least to start.

“Obviously he wanted to be there, but I said ‘look I’ll give you the first four, five innings off because I know you’re gonna come up big so just be ready for that,’” Mendoza said after the game.

So, Lindor got ready.

After the game, he said it took him an hour to prepare and that the training staff, the coaches and even his wife (who he said had the same sickness as him before, as well as his daughter) did a great job to help him.

His opportunity came in the bottom of the sixth inning with the Mets down 5-2, but staging a rally with runners on first and second and one out. Facing reliever Keegan Thompson, Lindor lined a double to right field to drive in two and get New York to within a run.

“I was well prepared, the coaches prepared me, [hitting coach Eric] Chavez prepared me and all the players told me what [Thompson] was throwing, what he was like so I was prepared,” Lindor said. “It was just a matter of getting my swing off and yeah sometimes the ball finds holes, sometimes it doesn’t. I’ve been on the other side more than this side but today was a good day.”

Coming in during the middle of the game as a pinch-hitter is difficult for any player, but for a player who plays almost everyday like Lindor does, it’s particularly challenging. In fact, before that at-bat, Lindor had only had six at-bats in his career as a pinch-hitter and just one hit.

He doubled that total with his double and looked just fine doing it.

“Not easy at all,” Mendoza said about Lindor entering during the middle of the game. “Especially for a guy that plays every day, not used to coming off the bench. But I told him, ‘hey you’re getting five innings off’ and he treated us and the situation came up and he came through. It says a lot about who he is as a player, as a person and what he means to this team. He’s willing to sacrifice everything to help this team and that goes a long way in that room, for the organization and obviously for the fan base.”

Given how sick he was the night before – not to mention the struggles he’s had at the plate this season – that sixth-inning hit would’ve been impressive enough. However, the Mets would need him again later in the game.

After Brandon Nimmo drove Lindor home in that sixth inning to tie the game at 5-5, that’s where the game stood entering the 11th inning.

The Cubs scored a run in the top of the frame off reliever Danny Young who was making his MLB debut, but the Mets thwarted any chance of them adding on thanks to the defense of Starling Marte and Omar Narvaez. With runners on first and second and two outs Mike Tauchman singled through the right side of the infield, but Marte charged the ball hard and came up firing to nab the runner at home plate after Narvaez initially missed the tag and keep the Mets down by just a run.

An inning earlier (and a day after the Mets lost on similar play), Marte doubled off the runner at home trying to score on a potential sacrifice fly. Narvaez made an excellent scoop on a tough hop and stuck the glove on Christopher Morel as he ran by.

Mendoza called both outfield assists “unbelievable plays” following the game and commented on the similarities between those plays with the play that cost New York the game on Wednesday.

“Look, baseball is crazy and then before you know it two plays at the plate,” he said. “I’m glad we were able to make those plays… Overall, a complete play there, twice.”

Still, the Mets were down 6-5 entering the bottom of the 11th and needed a hero to make something happen.

Following Harrison Bader’s HBP to lead things off and put runners on first and second, Lindor came through again with his second two-run double of the game, this one to left field, that won it for New York in walk-off fashion.

“First of all thanks to the good lord and the trainers here, my wife and everybody that fought to keep me healthy,” he said in a postgame interview with SNY's Steve Gelbs after getting a Gatorade shower dumped on him. “It’s one of those where I hate to come out of the game, I hate not playing. I didn’t know what to do with myself today and I told Mendy, I was like ‘Mendy, please let me play, let me play’ and he said ‘alright you’re gonna get your shot today’ and I spent an hour trying to get ready today and God is good so thank you guys for coming out and witnessing this.”