Francisco Lindor’s professed theory was that there was a large rat in the Citi Field tunnel. Or was it a raccoon? Either way, it was an absolute zoo.
In the seventh inning of the Mets’ 5-4, 10-inning win over the Diamondbacks on Friday night, there appeared to be a significant incident in the tunnel of the Mets’ dugout — one serious enough that it sent Michael Conforto and Dom Smith hurtling to the scene looking alarmed.
Shortly after that, Lindor and Jeff McNeil emerged looking angry and, in McNeil’s case, disheveled. But rather than a fight — which seemed like the most reasonable conclusion, given that McNeil and Lindor had just had a miscommunication in the field that led to an infield hit — Lindor repeatedly stated that it was just a friendly debate.
"It was funny. I told him, I’ve never seen a New York rat, so we went down, sprinting to see the rat, and he got mad at me, saying no, it’s not a rat, it’s a raccoon," Lindor said. "I’m like hell, no, man. It’s a damn rat. It’s a New York rat."
About his relationship with McNeil, he added: "I can bring him out and probably give him a kiss on the cheek."
As for why Conforto and Smith ran to the scene and why Jonathan Villar pointed to his own eyes and pointed to the rest of the dugout — as if to say, ‘Keep an eye out’ — Lindor said the reasoning was simple. They wanted to see the animal.
In all, the bizarre tale overshadowed an otherwise jubilant ending. After falling in an early 4-0 hole, the Mets tied it on Lindor’s two-run homer in the seventh and won it in the 10th on rookie Patrick Mazeika’s first major-league RBI.
Mazeika’s run-scoring fielder’s choice went all of maybe 10 feet, but it was more than enough for a shirtless fete at second base.
With Pete Alonso as the gift runner at second, Stefan Crichton intentionally walked Smith to start the bottom of the 10th. Alonso tagged up on Kevin Pillar’s fly ball to put runners at the corners and Crichton intentionally walked Villar to load the bases. Then Mazeika’s swinging bunt on a 2-and-2 pitch squirmed in front of home plate, just far enough to drive in a diving Alonso as Crichton tried to toss the ball home with his glove and didn’t come close.
"It wasn’t exactly how I drew it up in my head in the on-deck circle, but a win is a win," Mazeika said. "We got the job done . . . I was actually pretty calm because I had played that scenario in my head from the seventh inning on, knowing I was the last man off the bench."
The Mets’ bullpen allowed one run in 8 1⁄3 innings, stranding 13 runners.
But no one was talking about that afterward. Lindor stayed with his rat story, and the Mets’ official Twitter account even set up the "rat/raccoon" debate as a poll. Tomas Nido got in on the action, too, tweeting "that was definitely a rat."
Luis Rojas seemed less inclined to get in on the action, but he said there is no bad blood on his team.
"This is a family. Everyone is getting along real well," he said, adding that the walk-off party still was going on in the clubhouse, replete with music and smoke. "The guys are sticking together; after the game everyone was celebrating."
He said Lindor and McNeil are fine and that he was a witness only to the aftermath.
"I know something was going on," he said. "I heard some scrambling and I went down to check . . . And the one thing I ran into was Francisco saying, ‘Let’s just play ball, let’s just play ball, Luis.’ "
No wildlife was spotted at that time.