Why Mets didn’t start Francisco Lindor, Javier Baez in nightcap

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Francisco Lindor was the Mets’ hero in their 11-9 win in the opener of Saturday’s doubleheader against the Nationals, and Javier Baez contributed offensively as well. The two were then kept out of the lineup in the 4-3 nightcap loss, a move manager Luis Rojas said was precautionary with their injury history.

“Guys have been playing a lot, and they just played the nine innings there and we’ve got to be careful,” Rojas said in between games. “Our next day off is not on the horizon yet, we got to make sure that guys are fresh and can come back tomorrow and play.”

It wasn’t until a last-ditch effort in the top of the seventh of the nightcap, when the Mets were trailing 4-3, that Lindor and Baez pinch hit. Replacing Luis Guillorme, Lindor grounded out, while Baez struck out for starting pitcher Tylor Megill.

In addition to losing Brandon Nimmo to a hamstring injury in the second inning of Game 1, the Mets lineup struggled through a four-hit performance in Game 2.

Francisco Lindor and Javier Baez celebrate after the Mets' Game 1 win over the Nationals, but they did not start in their Game 2 loss.
Francisco Lindor and Javier Baez celebrate after the Mets’ Game 1 win over the Nationals, but they did not start in their Game 2 loss.
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“It’s hard, you want those guys every game,” Rojas said. “Going into this doubleheader and all the innings that we played in that first [game], there was a pretty good chance at one point that we were going to have the guys play both games. But you don’t want things like what happened to Nimmo happening.”

Lindor saved the Mets from the embarrassment of blowing a 9-0 lead in the opener with a two-run home run in extra innings to extend the Amazin’s winning streak to seven games.

Leading off the ninth inning with two hits and two RBIs on the day already, Lindor blasted a 93.7 mph sinker from Nationals pitcher Kyle Finnegan into the second deck of Nationals Park to ultimately secure the Game 1 win. Albert Almora Jr., who replaced Nimmo in the lineup, scored after starting the inning on second as the ghost runner.

Lindor finished the Saturday matinee 3-for-4 with two runs and four RBIs, including a sacrifice fly all the way to the warning track in the Mets’ four-run second inning to score Jonathan Villar for the 6-0 lead. Lindor did commit a throwing error in the sixth, when the Nationals closed the gap to two runs.

“[It was a] long one, but very, very rewarding,” Lindor said after the Game 1 win. “A lot of the guys got a lot of hits, which always makes it fun. A little bit frustrated with my error that led to the beginning [of the Nationals’ rally]. I’m defense first and I wasn’t pleased with that one.

“Thank God with the group of guys we have, they pick us up, they picked me up, and gave us a chance to win.”

It has been an eventful week for Lindor, who signed a 10-year, $341 million extension with the Mets in April after getting traded from the Indians in January. The 27-year-old shortstop recently had to apologize, along with Javier Baez, for a “thumbs-down” gesture that was intended to be a dig at the fans — something owner Steve Cohen publicly condemned as “unacceptable.”

Lindor, a four-time All-Star, has largely underperformed in his first season in Flushing. In 98 games with the Mets, he has posted a career-low .224 batting average with an on-base percentage of .313 and 12 homers — just four more than he hit during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season with Cleveland.

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