Alonso, Lindor (slam) go deep in 10-run 6th

Villar homers from both sides of the plate

July 10th, 2021

NEW YORK -- One thing the Mets have decidedly not needed more of lately is rain. What they have needed, what they’ve been waiting on for the better part of this season, really, has been runs. A lot of them, enough to give their top-flight pitching a needed night off. As it turned out, they got both -- rains and runs -- in droves on Friday night in a 13-4 drubbing of the Pirates.

Well before the skies opened up at Citi Field to delay the game for 41 minutes in the eighth inning, the Mets had all but put a bow on this victory with a 10-run sixth, highlighted by Pete Alonso's three-run homer and Francisco Lindor’s first grand slam as a Met. It was the first time they’ve scored that many runs in a single frame since Sept. 11, 2020, against the Blue Jays. In fact, they had only scored 10 or more runs in an entire game three times this season. Of all teams leading their division entering Friday, the Mets had the lowest run differential at plus-3. The Brewers, who had the next lowest, were at plus-51.

All this to say, the offensive onslaught was uncommon and much needed for a team that has aspirations of a deep playoff run. Getting the bats in step with the pitching will be paramount if they are going to make that a reality.

“That was a special inning,” manager Luis Rojas said. “We can get used to those. We know they don’t happen every day.”

Much has been made of this first-place club’s rotation while the offense, which hasn’t exactly been known for its early-and-often prowess, has taken an admittedly deserved back seat. But that script flipped, and the face at the center of it all was one with a signature smile stretched across it. Lindor’s grand slam, also the first by any Met this season, was the latest sign that he is returning to form, discovering a comfort level in Queens that has taken some time to attain.

That was evident in Lindor’s trip around the bases, one he savored as the Citi Field crowd rose to greet him. That hasn’t always been the case, and it hasn’t been lost on the shortstop, who was met with boos at times throughout his first month in a Mets uniform.

“It just sucks getting booed. It’s that simple. I want to do the best I can every day to help the team win, and I was just listening,” Lindor said. “… We also feed off the fans, listening to them as I run the bases, sharing and celebrating with their loved ones, it’s something we don’t really do. We don’t really sit back and watch them. Look around, see how the fans react. It was pretty cool to see them reacting.”

With the trends pointing upward, Lindor should be seeing that reaction much more often. He is hitting over .300 this month and, stretching back to the start of June, he’s slashing .250/.347/.430. The ascent has been gradual, of course, but the player who was below the Mendoza line through April seems to be a figment of the past.

“I’ve never hit .210, .205 in the first half, and I’m sure most of the guys have never done what they’re doing now,” Lindor said. “So seeing them getting results, including myself, it feels great.”

There’s no doubt Lindor brings an energy off which the rest of the Mets feed. It even extends to his manager, who greeted him with a bear hug in the dugout and made sure to mention after the game that he’d thrown batting practice to Lindor earlier in the day (“I’m not taking credit,” Rojas laughed).

While members of the “bench mob” have been revelations this season – and Jonathan Villar, a leader of that crew, certainly had his fingerprints all over this rout with two home runs, one from each side of the plate – it was important to see Lindor and Pete Alonso shoulder a good portion of the offensive load. If the Mets are to make a habit out of offensive nights like these, those two names should be peppering the box score.

As part of the 10-run breakout in the 6th, Alonso gave a T-Mobile Home Run Derby preview, flexing his prodigious power to all fields with a 397-foot blast to right-center. He has six home runs and 14 RBIs in his past 19 games. Rojas, who was as surprised as anyone to hear this was only Alonso’s second Citi Field homer of the season, said the most encouraging sign was seeing him go the other way.

“That means he’s staying simple, so he was ready for that pitch,” Rojas said. “He looks really good right now. If he finds traffic and gets a pitch to hit, that’s what we need. We haven’t been hitting the homers we know we can hit.”

Entering the final weekend before the All-Star break and ultimately the second half, the Mets hope they can carry over this kind of offense to pair with their stable of aces in the rotation. Maybe they can even leave the rain behind.

“It’s baseball. We go through ups and downs,” Lindor said. “The pitching staff carried us through the first half. Now it’s our turn to help them out.”