Francisco Lindor and Giancarlo Stanton turned standard home run trots into whistle stop tours and that turned the 2021 Subway Series finale as confrontational on the field as it normally is in the stands.
One night after players from both sides symbolized unity on the 20th anniversary of 9/11 by intermingling on the baselines for the national anthem, they were all interspersed on the field again in the top of the seventh inning Sunday. There was not fraternity in mind this time.
Lindor said that during a three-homer, five-run second inning Saturday that it was his (and other Mets’) perception that the Yankees dugout was deciphering Taijuan Walker’s pitches and relaying signals via a whistling system.
“I am not saying 100 percent, but I felt like something was going on,” Lindor said.
So when Lindor hit his second homer of Sunday’s game, a solo shot in the sixth to increase the Mets’ lead to 6-4, he took a chatty navigation of the bases, at one point making a whistling pantomime toward his friend, Gleyber Torres.
In response, when Stanton hit a two-run homer in the seventh to tie the score 6-6, he stopped in front of Lindor. The Mets’ shortstop’s perception was that Stanton was “not in a fighting manner” and that Lindor should be “more subtle” if he is trying to make a point to the other team.
But this did not serve as counsel or peace talk. Instead, the Yankee dugout and, particularly, Lindor and Javy Baez began chirping toward each other. And that fueled the tensions. The dugouts and bullpens emptied, spilling into the infield. No punches were thrown — though Brett Gardner gestured with two thumbs down at Lindor and Baez.
But the last laugh — and launch — belonged to Lindor. His third homer of the game, off Chad Green with one out in the eighth, broke the tie and assured a 7-6 Met victory. The most booed Met of 2021 was now lavishing in a standing ovation and, ultimately, a curtain call.
“I was being booed for a very long time, so it felt good,” Lindor said.
This Subway Series ended with the Mets winning two of three — just like the first New York, New York series this year. But it also ended with both teams out of playoff position. The Yankees are not at least tied for the second wild card for the first time since Aug. 16.
The Mets are five games out in the NL East and three for the second wild card. But maybe the Mets are Lindor and Lindor is the Mets — better late than never.
For all that has negatively occurred with Lindor from the heady moment when he signed his 10-year, $341 million Mets extension, there remains enough season for him to — at minimum — edit the ending. He now has six homers in September, second most in the majors.
The Mets’ blessing is that the race for the second wild card is comprised of a group much like the Mets — seemingly all trying not to win it. The Padres lead the group, though they have won just eight of their last 27 games. The Reds are next, though they have won just six of their last 18.
The other two teams between the Mets and the top of the wild card are the Cardinals and Phillies, and those represent the next six games on the Mets’ schedule. So, at least the Mets have an opportunity to do something to impact the race.
That is a lot of teams to climb over in not a lot of time — the Mets have 18 games left. But it becomes more doable if Lindor is going to play like the player the Mets thought they were acquiring and paying into the 2030s.
Each of Lindor’s homers was an uppercut to the Yankees. Torres, the Yankee shortstop, made an error to elongate the second inning. That enabled Lindor to get to the plate with two on and two out. Lindor homered off Clarke Schmidt to put the Mets ahead 4-2.
His sixth-inning homer against Wandy Peralta — the only one he hit from the right side — brought his whistle motion that began to intensify hostilities between the New York teams. And his two-run shot off Green — a homer he admitted he was trying to hit — decided the game.
But this game of drama had more. Stanton came up with two on and two out in the ninth and — fittingly — he popped out. To Lindor. To end the game.
The Mets won. They are back at .500 (72-72). They are not dead yet. Maybe because Lindor just might be coming to life.