Like Johan Santana before him — and Mike Piazza before them both — Francisco Lindor endured on Tuesday a rite of passage of sorts for blockbuster Mets trade acquisitions: Getting booed by the home crowd.
On the way to a 2-1 loss to the Red Sox, Lindor stepped to the plate in the bottom of the eighth, the Mets a home run away from tying the game. He worked the count full before sending a ground ball — hard — back to reliever Matt Andriese, who threw to first for a routine out.
The Citi Field crowd of a pandemic-limited 7,917 let Lindor hear it.
"Our fan base is very passionate," manager Luis Rojas explained. "It’s something that we’ve seen in the past here over the years when guys are going through a little bit of a struggle. It’s our fan base being as passionate as they are, wanting us to perform better, to win games. I’m sure it’s not the last time we’ll hear a reaction."
Eighteen games in an 11-year commitment to the Mets, Lindor is batting .212 with a .321 OBP and .273 slugging percentage. His home run last week at Wrigley Field was not the beginning of a hot streak he thought it was. He even batted leadoff, historically the spot where he has done his best hitting, for the first time this season, but there was no switch flipped.
"I just feel that he’s one swing away, one at-bat away. I keep saying it," Rojas said. "I don’t want to jump the gun there saying that there’s anything affecting him other than he’s going through a bad stretch right now."
And so continued an early-season theme for the Mets (9-9), who have had solid pitching and minimal hitting. None of their final 10 batters reached base.
They struggled against Red Sox righthander Garrett Richards, who struck out 10 and walked none in seven innings, lowering his ERA from 6.48 to 4.94.
"We thought he was a guy who threw a lot of offspeed with two strikes, and he was throwing that fastball up, so it made it tough to get to," Jeff McNeil said. "That made uncomfortable at-bats for us."
The Mets’ only run came on McNeil’s second homer of the year, a first-pitch blast into the rightfield upper deck in the second.
"That one felt pretty good," said McNeil, who noted that he took one of the best rounds of batting practice of his career Tuesday afternoon. "I felt tremendous and was able to carry that into the game."
David Peterson (5.59 ERA) recorded his second quality start in four outings this month, holding the highest-scoring lineup in the American League to two runs and four hits in six innings.
Bobby Dalbec’s homer in the third erased what had been an early Mets lead. The Red Sox (15-9) took the lead in the sixth on back-to-back hits from Enrique Hernandez (double) and Rafael Devers (bloop single to leftfield).
"It sucks making a good pitch and a guy flicks it out there like that," Peterson said. "That’s happened to me a good amount recently. It’s not a good feeling at all, giving up hits like that."
A highlight for the Mets: Alonso turning Dalbec’s potential single into an out in the fifth inning.
Dalbec slashed a grounder toward first base, and Alonso took a couple of steps to his left, sliding and fielding the ball mid-hop. After bouncing to his feet, Alonso decisively sprinted to the base, diving hands-first to beat Dalbec and record the out.
For a player who faced significant questions about his defense upon his arrival in the majors in 2019 — but casually mentions his Gold Glove aspirations at least once a year — Alonso has made those sorts of diving stops something of a regular occurrence this month.
Alonso ranks first among Mets position players with 2 Defensive Runs Saved, Rojas’ preferred defense statistic. That is better than Lindor, McNeil, Kevin Pillar and Brandon Nimmo, who each have 1 DRS.
Last season, Alonso finished at -5 DRS. The season before that, 1 DRS.
"He’s playing the best that I’ve seen him," said Rojas, who has known Alonso since they were in Double-A in 2018. "He’s moving really well, he’s on his toes, his hands are very quiet. He’s doing a good job."