Francisco Lindor finally breaks out of slump in huge way to lift Mets to win over Reds

CINCINNATI — Steve Cohen endorsed a fan idea Saturday to welcome Francisco Lindor back to Citi Field later this week with a standing ovation.

Mets fans and the team’s owner suggested coaxing Lindor out of his funk with cheers rather than raining boos down upon him.

Maybe such an act won’t be needed.

Francisco Lindor hits a double in the Mets’ win over the Reds on Sunday. Getty Images

Maybe the applause can be a tribute to a player who found his way out of a slump.

For the first time in this short season, Lindor’s bat showed life — and power — in a 3-1 victory over the Reds on Sunday at Great American Ball Park, where the Mets won their first series of the year.

The Mets (3-6) begin a series in Atlanta on Monday with momentum and perhaps with a shortstop who is returning to form.

Francisco Lindor finished the day 2-for-5 with a home run. Getty Images

Lindor entered play 1-for-31 in eight games, sporting a rarely seen .032 batting average.

Through one of the deepest downturns of his career, Lindor remained positive, a chipper personality who pumps fists with everyone coming off the field each inning no matter his stat line.

“That’s what makes him a special player — the energy that he brings in that dugout, especially when he’s O-fer,” manager Carlos Mendoza said after the Mets won their third in four games. “The energy that he brings for this team is off the charts.”

His play, too, makes him special.

It took four innings for the 2023 Silver Slugger winner to add two more hits to the ledger, with a first-inning double and fourth-inning home run for his first two extra-base hits of the season.

As he snuck a look at the double that he smacked down the third-base line, Lindor thought, “Thank God” as it went through to the outfield.

He had believed his luck would turn because he had been putting together better at-bats in recent days.

Starling Marte scored when Brandon Nimmo was hit by a pitch in the second inning of the Mets’ win Sunday. AP

He continued to believe the hits would fall as teammates and coaches, past and present, began reaching out with encouragement.

Perhaps they were spurred by external noise: A few anonymous accounts on social media messaged his wife with hate, messages that Katia Reguero Lindor brought to the public.

Lindor did his best to avoid the negative and focus on the positive.

Among those to reach out were Cleveland and Puerto Rico legend Sandy Alomar, a “big mentor” as Lindor called him, as well as now Mets executive Carlos Beltran, 2023 Met Tommy Pham and Tomas Nido, who was texting from Triple-A Syracuse.

“It’s good to know there’s people on my side besides my wife and my family,” said Lindor, who scored the first run on a Francisco Alvarez infield single that the Reds misplayed and the final run on his 368-foot shot to left.

The Mets scored a little league run in the second, when they loaded the bases on two bunt hits and a walk before Brandon Nimmo got drilled with a pitch, and that’s all they would need because Sean Manaea and four relievers held Cincinnati to three hits.

Sean Manaea started against the Reds during the Mets’ win on Sunday. Getty Images

Lindor’s 2-for-5 day provided the Mets’ offense cover on an afternoon the group left the bases loaded in the second and third innings.

Lindor himself thwarted the potential rally in the second, when he smoked a 102.8 mph ground ball directly to shortstop Elly De La Cruz, who began an inning-ending double play.

There was no helmet toss or bat spike.

The 10th-year veteran and fourth-year Met withheld frustration and perhaps took it out on an Andrew Abbott fastball two innings later.

“I am Francisco Lindor. I’m me every single day,” said Lindor, who bumped his OPS from .216 to .403. “When I’m doing good or bad, it is my job, it is my duty as a leader to be the same person.”

Lindor brushed off glances toward the upcoming faceoff with the Braves because, he said, this entire season will be a “great challenge.”

The 2024 Mets will not enter Atlanta with the expectations that previous versions of the Mets held.

“We don’t have the team that we’re going to show up to places and roll through people,” Lindor said. “But we do have a lot of good players that are ready to play and compete.”

And perhaps they have the shortstop who went 30-30 last season.

Can one game and two swings be the catalyst toward Francisco Lindor becoming Francisco Lindor at the plate again?

“You never know what’s going to happen,” Lindor said, “but I do feel good right now.”

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