Lindor cranks 3 homers in doubleheader to join 30-30 club

September 28th, 2023

NEW YORK -- Heading into the Mets’ doubleheader against the Marlins on Wednesday, the arithmetic worked against . The Mets had merely six games to play. Lindor had been homering at a rate of about one every half-dozen games. If Lindor was going to achieve his goal of a 30-30 season, it would almost certainly require a week-long hot streak taking him through the final hours of September.

Or not. Lindor homered three times in the Mets’ doubleheader split with the Marlins at Citi Field to become the fourth player in franchise history to produce 30 home runs and 30 stolen bases in a season. He hit a two-run homer in the team’s 11-2 win in the first game, then went deep twice in a 4-2 nightcap loss to achieve his first career 30-30-season.

Lindor now has exactly 30 homers and 30 steals, joining David Wright, Howard Johnson (three times) and Darryl Strawberry as the only Mets to go 30-30. He is also the third Puerto Rican-born player to achieve the feat (not to mention the fourth Met to homer three times in a doubleheader).

“Francisco’s got a really great grasp of baseball history,” Mets manager Buck Showalter said. “He loves being a part of it.”

After homering from the right side of the plate in the third inning of the first game, then from the left side in his first at-bat of the nightcap, Lindor came up for a second time against Marlins starter Johnny Cueto. The veteran greeted him with a slider that arced horizontally across the plate. Waiting on it, Lindor lengthened his swing and pulled the ball from the outside corner to the home bullpen, pumping his fist as it soared.

“I’ve said it before: I don’t really play for numbers, but it’s really hard not to play for numbers in New York,” Lindor said. “Numbers come up a lot here. But it means a lot. To be in the category of guys I idolized growing up … it’s pretty cool.”

This is indeed an elite club. Before Lindor, only 44 AL/NL players had produced a 30-30 season. Six of them are in the Hall of Fame, including Barry Larkin, one of Lindor’s mentors, and several others may eventually wind up there. It’s a who’s who of All-Stars from multiple eras, but mostly from the 1980s to the present. Lindor is the third player to achieve a 30-30 season this year, joining Atlanta’s Ronald Acuña Jr. and Seattle’s Julio Rodríguez. He’s the first Met to do it since Wright in 2007.

Thirty-thirty requires not just natural power and speed, but also discipline. When Wright entered the league in 2004, 30 homers seemed inevitable for him at some point in his career. The thought of him stealing 30 bases, however, did not become real until Johnson -- by that point a Mets coach -- encouraged him to be more aggressive on the bases. Following his mentor’s advice, Wright stole 34 bags in 2007 to join him.

Unlike Wright, Johnson and Strawberry, Lindor had the benefit of Major League Baseball’s new rules designed to help baserunners, including larger bases and a limit on pitcher disengagements. As a result, stolen bases are up around the league, which allowed Lindor to set a career high with his 30th on Sept. 21. With four days left in the regular season, MLB has already seen nearly 1,000 more stolen bases than it did a year ago.

But Lindor wasn’t simply a beneficiary of those rules. For the second straight season, he is on track to clear 160 games played -- a habit of “posting up,” as Showalter calls it, that allows him to achieve such statistical feats.

“He does get more chances because he posts up,” Showalter said. “What a great example he is for these young players up here to see how important it is. Good things can happen if you keep posting up.”

Still, in the waning days of September, a 30-30 campaign seemed unlikely for Lindor given the limited time remaining. In the weeks leading up to Wednesday, Lindor fielded countless interview requests about his pursuit of the individual feat. He disliked discussing it in part because of the added pressure. At one point, Lindor asked a reporter to “pray for me.”

“It’s been on my mind for sure,” Lindor said. “It’s numbers that I wanted to get to. I know my teammates were pulling for it as well, my coaches. So it meant a lot. When I run the bases, I appreciate what was happening and wishing my family was here, then looking up and seeing my wife and my daughters up there -- it’s definitely pretty cool.”