NEW YORK — For Mets shortstop Francisco Lindor, the one thing that made the Mets’ near-perfect sixth inning complete more than anything was the cheers he heard from the fans after the biggest blow of the game, only because of the noise he has kept hearing from those same fans for his imperfections in the half-season he has been in the Big Apple.
Lindor crushed his third-career grand slam, the capper to a 10-run sixth inning, in helping to lead the Mets to a 13-4 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates in the first of a four-game series on Friday night. Prior to Lindor’s blast in the sixth, Pete Alonso hit a three-run homer for his 16 dinger of the season.
To be fair, the competitive nature of the game appeared to evaporate by the time Lindor stepped up to the plate in the sixth, as Alonso’s shot to right-center on the first pitch gave the Mets a 6-2 lead and they were able to tack on two more runs prior to Lindor’s second at-bat of the inning. But the cheers that had already preceded that at-bat were superseded when Lindor smoked a line drive from a Kyle Keller pitch just over the left-centerfield wall for his third career four-bagger and first as a Met, a clout that gave New York its 10-run inning and an 12-2 advantage.
In a first half that has seen his average not rise above .226 after the season opener — including spending almost every day for the month of May with a batting average south of the Mendoza line — Lindor has heard his share of boos from the growingly-impatient hometown supporters for almost every misstep at the plate. Those same catcalls were in his mind as he rounded the bases, hearing many of those same fans who had razzed him now giving him near-rapturous adulation — at least for the time being.
“It just sucks getting booed. I want to do my best to do the team win, and I was just listening to see if I was going to get booed,” a heartfelt Lindor said when asked what he was thinking as he started to run the bases following his grand slam. “I work hard every single day to put up numbers and help this team win. I’m nowhere near my best, so when I do have a little bit of success, I want to sit back and listen and feed off the crowd again. It gives me that extra motivation to push forward.
“When I hit the home run, I was thinking, ‘Look around. See how the fans are reacting.'”
The two lowest-scoring teams in Major League Baseball were headed for a white knuckler after the first five innings, with the game tied at 2-2, before Brandon Nimmo began the bottom of the sixth with a single and went to second on a walk to Lindor. On a 1-2 pitch, Dominic Smith singled to right off Pirates starter JT Brubaker to bring home Nimmo and give the Mets the Mets a 3-2 lead. Alsonso then followed with his sixth home run of 2021 on the first pitch of an at-bat, going to right-centerfield off Pirates starter JT Brubaker and hitting it just over the 380-foot sign in the gap.
Jonathan Villar got the Mets on the board with a solo home run in the third inning to tie the game at 1, then proceeded to his his second solo home run in the seventh inning and, in doing so, connecting on homers from both sides of the plate.
Mets starter Taijuan Walker, who was named to the National League All-Star team in the midst of tonight’s start, went five innings and allowed two runs on four hits while striking out two. His ERA of 2.50 ranks eighth in the league and he sports a 1.03 WHIP in 90 innings this season.
Pirates second baseman and All-Star Adam Frazier added to his league-leading batting average by going 2-for-4 with an RBI while first baseman John Nogowski went 3-for-4 with an RBI and a walk. Rodolfo Castro got his first hit in the majors by launching a home run to right as a pinch hitter in the seventh.
*Editor’s note: Above the byline is the photo gallery from Friday evening’s contest, with photographs taken by ALOST photographer Roberto Carlo. After clicking on the first photo to enlarge the picture, make sure to press the left and right arrow buttons to scroll through the rest of the pictures. There are nine pictures in total.