Mets-Nats benches clear after Lindor beaned
WASHINGTON -- It was Buck Showalter who sprang out of the dugout first, jawing at Nationals reliever Steve Cishek as he stalked directly toward him. Francisco Lindor, who had been struck on the C-flap of his helmet with an 88 mph Cishek fastball, was still lying facedown on the dirt.
The rest of the Mets appeared emotionally charged as they followed their manager out of the dugout, engaging with the Nationals in a benches-clearing incident on Friday night at Nationals Park. They had just seen Lindor become the fourth victim of an errant pitch in the first 14 innings of their baseball season. They had no interest in seeing any more of it.
“It’s scary initially,” Showalter said. “Times like that, the fourth one, I don’t really want to hear about intent. When you’re throwing up in there, those things can’t happen.”
And then the incident ended. No punches were thrown. No other batters were hit over the balance of a 7-3 Mets win over the Nationals. Lindor wound up being fine, other than a possibly chipped tooth, as confirmed by negative X-rays and concussion tests. Cishek apologized. But the incident nonetheless inflamed the Mets, who were still displeased about what had happened on Opening Day. Nats pitchers hit them three times in that one, including a 95 mph Mason Thompson fastball that ricocheted off Pete Alonso’s shoulder and split his lip.
“I’d be pissed off, and they’re pissed off,” Nationals manager Dave Martinez said. “And I get that. I really do. Both times were unintentional. Super unintentional. But it did happen.”
To guard against any such thing happening again, crew chief Mark Carlson warned Max Scherzer – who won his Mets debut with six solid innings – as he came to the mound for the next half inning. Carlson had already ejected Cishek, who briefly protested before retiring to his dugout, and Nationals third-base coach Gary DiSarcina, a former Mets coach whom Carlson identified as “one of the aggressors” in inflaming the incident.
Scherzer, who understood the cold, wet atmosphere at Nationals Park as well as anyone, needed no such warning. He said definitively that he believed nothing was intentional. But some Mets were still upset about the fact that – intent or no intent – Nationals pitchers could exhibit such a lack of control. Before the game, Showalter had spoken about pitchers gripping slick baseballs in the colder weather of April, without the aid of anything but rosin.
“It’s dangerous,” Showalter said. “If they’re going to pitch, [to] have their guys set up underneath the hitter and in, you’d better have command in there. And if you don’t – I’ve done this with pitchers – if he doesn’t have command, you can’t let him pitch in there. Or you can’t let him make your club.”
Added Showalter postgame: “Max didn’t have any trouble controlling the ball tonight.”
Regardless of how it happened, various Nationals types made it clear that they felt badly about all the hit batsmen. After Thompson hit Alonso on Thursday, he apologized to the Mets slugger. Cishek, whose pitch struck Lindor only after the shortstop squared to bunt, did the same.
“When I hit him, it shocked me, because I don’t think I’ve ever hit a lefty in the face or in the head before,” Cishek said. “My first intention was to go over there and see if he was OK. And when I was doing that, I realized that was a bad idea, because it just kind of fired up the bench on the other side.”
The Mets stormed out of their dugout behind Showalter, while more poured in from the bullpen. As Lindor lay on the ground, he said he “heard scuffles” and looked up to see the entire team and coaching staff defending him.
“Everybody,” Lindor said. “There’s not one guy that I didn’t see, and I appreciate that. That, to me, shows unity. … I’m super proud to be a New York Met.”
Given the concern emanating from Washington’s clubhouse, Mets players seemed mostly convinced about the lack of ill will. In addition to apologies from Thompson and Cishek, Lindor said that Juan Soto and Nationals bullpen coach Ricky Bones, another former Met, sought him out to check on his health.
Showalter may not have been quite as content, but he was pleased that Lindor – like Alonso the night before – came out of the night healthy, and that the Mets managed to rise beyond the chaos to stay undefeated on the season.
“It’s one of those games,” Showalter said, “you don’t want to go through all that and not win.”