ST. LOUIS — And for the 25th game of the season, Francisco Lindor was on the bench.
The Mets’ slumping star shortstop was absent from the lineup — for the first time — on Wednesday for the back half of a doubleheader against the Cardinals. They lost in the first game with Lindor, 4-1, and won in the second game without him, 7-2.
Lindor went 0-for-3, extending his hitless streak to 0-for-his-last-24, and made a critical late-inning throwing error in the opener. After that, Jonathan Villar filled in at shortstop, going 2-for-4 and making a smooth backhand play in the field to end a St. Louis rally.
After the game, Lindor was the first person in the handshake line, ready to greet the players who did play as they came off the field. Manager Luis Rojas said Lindor will be back in the lineup Thursday.
"He was talking, he was outgoing throughout the game, he was having fun with the guys watching," Rojas said. "I think it helps — watch a game from the side and see some swings, see some timing. So we’ll see. He’ll get back in there and we’ll see if he gets going."
Lindor’s latest numbers: .157 average, .276 OBP, .202 slugging percentage. He hasn’t had a hit more than a week. He hasn’t had an extra-base hit in two weeks.
"The best news is he’s still in a really good place mentally. He’s not panicking," hitting coach Hugh Quattlebaum said before the games. "He’s trying to feel some things out that have worked in the past. That probably will be the process again. I haven’t talked to him enough yet to dive into anything in particular. He’s probably trying to still figure out how to spell Quattlebaum, for God sakes."
These latest struggles came with Lindor hitting leadoff as Rojas tried out a funky lineup — including Kevin Pillar hitting fourth — against St. Louis lefthander Kwang Hyun Kim (four innings, one run).
The Mets had only two batted balls that qualified as hit hard. A nightcap batting order that looked closer to normal received two hits and two RBIs each from Pillar, Villar and Tomas Nido. Villar and Nido homered.
"We didn’t square anything," Rojas said after the Mets’ first game with new hitting coaches. "It’s almost like we didn’t have a good plan at the plate for this one."
He added at the end of the night: "A lot better."
Righthander Marcus Stroman allowed four runs — only two of them earned — in five innings, scattering seven hits, striking out six and walking one in the opener for the Mets (12-13).
"I always expect extraordinary things from myself," said Stroman, who has a 2.12 ERA. "I didn’t put it together out there fully. I felt like I had it in spurts, but over the course of five, I didn’t have it fully together."
Lindor’s oopsie came with two outs in the fifth. Arenado sent a routine ground ball to deep shortstop, and Lindor’s throw to first was high and wide, requiring Pete Alonso to leap from the base to corral it. That ended Stroman’s streak of five consecutive strikeouts.
The next batter, Paul DeJong, blasted a two-run homer into the Mets’ bullpen in left-center.
Rojas said he does not believe Lindor is letting his hitting problems affect his fielding.
"It’s frustrating, but at the end of the day that’s on me," Stroman said. "Lindor has made incredible plays for me already. It’s a long season. He’s going to bail me out in some big games, I’m sure, plenty of times."
The Mets used six pitchers in seven innings in their victory. Reliever Miguel Castro got the start — his third in 241 career games — and pitched one inning. In his Mets debut, Jordan Yamamoto held the Cardinals (18-13) to one run in 2 2/3 innings, a day after getting scratched from his Triple-A Opening Day start so he could join the major-league team.
"It was such a crazy ride," said Yamamoto, who picked up his first win since 2019. "I was expecting to start in Triple-A, but this is a little bit better than Triple-A. So I’ll definitely take that. It’s definitely a roller coaster of emotions. High stress, high anxiety. But once you get in the game, it’s all about performing."