This one was always going to mean a little more to Francisco Lindor.
The New York Mets shortstop and Puerto Rico native smacked his 24th home run of the season in the third inning, a two-run shot, to pace his club to a 7-1 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Thursday night at Citi Field, celebrating Roberto Clemente Day.
With members of Clemente’s family in attendance along with 14 former players who won the Robert Clemente Award — given to whom best exemplifies the game of baseball, sportsmanship, community involvement, and the individual’s contribution to his team — and against the Hall of Famer’s former team, Lindor set a new Mets franchise record for home runs hit in a single season by a shortstop.
“It’s special,” Lindor said. “A day like today where we are remembering him and honoring him, I was able to do one of the things he did. And we got the W.”
Lindor also had to coax Buck Showalter to play him in the field after the Mets’ manager considered putting him at the DH spot
“I want to be on the field. That’s what I do. I’m a shortstop,” he said. “I don’t want to be in the dugout the whole entire time. A day like today, being on the field, I’m honoring him. It’s special.”
That special night also helped stopped a three-game Mets losing streak after being swept by the Chicago Cubs, which helped open their slim lead atop the National League East to one game over the Atlanta Braves, who were off on Thursday.
Daniel Vogelbach, who had been struggling mightily entering the series opener against the Pirates, broke a 5-for-42 slump with three RBI in his two at-bats.
His two-RBI double in the first inning was his first extra-base hit since Aug. 21, which immediately put the Mets in the driver’s seat.
Following Lindor’s home run to make it a 4-1 game, Vogelbach singled home another run to extend the Mets’ lead to four.
“We know what Vogy’s capable of,” Showalter said. “When he gets into what he’s capable… He hits the ball hards. A lot of the times where people can’t catch them.”
In the fourth inning with two runners on and a lefty on the mound, though, Vogelbach was pinch-hit for by rookie Mark Vientos, who added to the pomp of Thursday night when he recorded his first-career hit — an RBI single to right that scored Brandon Nimmo.
“Memorable for sure,” Vientos said. “It felt really good to get the first one out of the way… I can take a deep breath now and just play baseball.”
Mets starter Carlos Carrasco had a strong night of his own despite throwing around 60 pitches through the first three innings and yielding a run in the second, going six innings while allowing that lone run with a season-high 11 strikeouts.
“I said ‘OK, three innings, 60 pitches?’ I cannot do this to the bullpen,” Carrasco said. “I just need to go a little bit deeper and I tried to get a lot of groundballs — then I got a lot of strikeouts… They just wanted to swing and I kept feeding them changeups.”