ATLANTA — It’s just a single stat, one that has fallen out of favor, at that, since the proliferation of advanced metrics, but for Francisco Lindor it nonetheless helps tell the tale of the significant difference between this season and last.
His three-run home run early Wednesday afternoon, the highlight of the Mets’ 7-3 win against Atlanta, upped his RBI total to 64, fourth most of any major-leaguer. That is one more than he had in all of 2021. And there are still a few days to go until the All-Star break.
Consider it a representative measure of a notably better year for Lindor and for the Mets, who improved to 55-34 by taking two out of three games in a critical series against the club closest to them in the NL East. The finale toggled their division lead back to 2 1/2 games.
“I’m helping the team a little more than I did last year. At this point last year, I was probably hitting .190,” Lindor said. “I’m happy, of course, that I’m contributing. I want to help the team. I want to be able to drive in runs and win the games because of those things. That’s what we all play for. So, yeah, I’m happy. But last year is last year. So it doesn’t really matter now.”
Manager Buck Showalter said: “He’s been stepping up all year, regardless of who we’re playing. I know his batting average in his mind or some people’s isn’t where he wants it to be, but my gosh, he’s picky.”
Lindor finished the series 5-for-14 with four RBIs and two runs scored.
“He’s doing what we all know he can do,” said catcher Tomas Nido, who has known Lindor since they played together as kids. “I’m sure it felt good, especially in a series where we were playing a good team and getting some big swings in there.”
Lindor’s other major contribution Wednesday came at shortstop in the bottom of the fourth, when Atlanta (53-37) had two on and two out against Chris Bassitt. Adam Duvall pulled a low line drive to the left side, where Lindor made a slick backhanded stop and fired a strong throw — from the outfield grass — to first to end the inning.
Had the throw not been in time, a four-run game would’ve become a three-run game. Had the ball gotten through, it might’ve been a two-run game.
“That was fun. That was fun. That’s what I live for. I like making plays like that,” Lindor said. “I like helping the pitcher. Especially on a day like today when it’s hot and Bassitt is working as hard as he could to get outs. To make a good play like that, to end the inning, that got me excited for sure.”
That was about Atlanta’s best scoring chance against Bassitt, who allowed one run — on Matt Olson’s solo homer in the sixth — in six innings.
Max Scherzer, David Peterson and Bassitt (7-6) held Atlanta, arguably the hottest-hitting team in baseball the past six weeks, to four runs in 18 1/3 innings this series. That is a 1.96 ERA.
“Chris was the difference today,” Showalter said.
The Mets, conversely, wore down the opposing starter again, this time reaching righthander Charlie Morton for five runs and six hits in five innings-plus. The runs all came on long balls: Eduardo Escobar in the second, Lindor in the third and Mark Canha in the sixth.
Atlanta starters Max Fried, Spencer Strider and Morton combined to record zero outs after the fifth inning.
“I’m not saying they [Atlanta] didn’t want it, but our guys, you could tell they were ready to play today,” Showalter said.
The Mets didn’t want to assign too much meaning to winning one series against their rival when there are three to go — and then, as Lindor noted, maybe a playoff meeting. The season series includes nine games in 15 days from Aug. 4-18.
“It’s a good win now,” Bassitt said, “and that’s basically it.”
Lindor added: “I don’t necessarily see it as, oh, they’re the Atlanta Braves and we have to beat them to send a statement. No. They’re a big-league team, and we have to beat them so we can count up the Ws.”
And Nido: “I feel like the vibe was like, everybody was freaking out — outside of this clubhouse [before the series]. So I’m sure it feels good for everybody to see that the season is not over. No, I’m kidding.”
Comparing Francisco Lindor's offensive numbers at this date in the last two seaons:
BA .225 .245
OBP .325 .317
SLG .373 .433
OPS .698 .750
HRs 11 16
RBIs 36 64