Francisco Lindor admitted that he felt uncomfortable stepping into the box against Washington Nationals reliever Steve Cishek on Monday night during the sixth inning of what was a precarious 4-3 New York Mets lead.
The first time these two met this season, on April 8, Lindor was hit in the face by an 88-mph Cishek fastball which prompted bad blood to boil and the benches to clear. Cishek was eventually ejected in what was his Nationals debut while Lindor remarkably didn’t miss any time.
But the incident was still very much in the back of his mind on the first night in August, especially when the batter before him, Starling Marte, was plunked on the forearm.
Then the second pitch to Lindor with runners on first and second was well inside, which provided one more mental hurdle for the Mets’ star shortstop to overcome.
“It made me very, very uncomfortable,” he admitted. “I just told myself that he’s not trying to hit you… If it hits you, it hits you.”
On the very next pitch, he a 90-mph four-seamer over the left-center field fence to blow the game open for the Mets, who won their season-high seventh game in a row, 7-3, on Monday night at Nationals Park.
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“I can’t tell you the fortitude it takes to get in there and hit let alone hit a home run,” Mets manager Buck Showalter said. “Every hitter is like that… It happens to a lot of hitters. Either you have compete or you let the moment get to you.
“I could tell what was going through his head and when he came over afterward all I said was ‘I know, I know.’ Those are the things that make you reach back and know guys like him are different.”
The round-tripper was Lindor’s 18th home run of the season while driving in runs No. 71, 72, and 73. It moved him past Amed Rosario for second-most RBI in a single season by a shortstop and just eight back of tying Jose Reyes’ franchise record of 81 in 2006.
“I was very happy because No. 1, I made it through the at-bat and No. 2 because I helped the team,” Lindor added. “I was able to stay through the baseball and keep my body in there.”
Such candor from Lindor like admitting his unease against Cishek might not always portrayed at the major-league level, but it’s something that is prevalent, per Showalter.
“We all get scared. Everybody here,” he said. “There are certain things that scare you. Might be a spider, might be a 90-mph fastball to your neck… Every night there’s something that challenges these guys. That’s why these guys do what they do at this level. THat’s why they’re the best in the world.
“It’s one thing to be that tough mentally, but to hit period let alone hit the ball the other way for 300-whatever feet, that was a big blow for us.”
Lindor helped stave off a strong push from the Nationals, who battled back in the fourth inning of a 4-1 game to pull within one run against Mets ace Max Scherzer.
“That’s crazy because when you get hit and you see a fastball come up by your face, you really have a life check for a moment,” Scherzer said of Lindor’s heroics. “For that to happen again, yeah, it’s a very uncomfortable feeling being in the box when that happens. Credit to him for putting his head back in there and hitting a home run on that pitch.
“Frankie deserves a lot of credit for that situation because I promise you — go stand in the cage and turn that thing up to 90 mph and put it by your head and you’ll have a new perspective of what we do.”