There was a point in Game 2 of Tuesday night’s doubleheader against the Giants when Pete Alonso was hurtling toward home plate from first base – his strong baserunning acumen trying to make up for whatever foot speed he may lack. The throw came in, and Alonso, who plays with what sometimes feels like a jolly disregard for gravity and maybe even personal well-being, hurled his body toward the bag with all the vigor of an Olympic diver (but without any liquid to break his fall).
He got his hand in before the tag, he popped onto his knees, and before he even stood, he was hugging and slapping Francisco Lindor, who just scored from third. They wore matching grins, and exuded the matching, giddy energy of two very good athletes having a very good time.
It’s no secret that last season wasn’t the easiest for the Mets – after a promising offseason and some good early returns, they faded down the stretch, missing the playoffs. Lindor, who came into the year having signed a 10-year, $341 million extension in March, didn’t fully live up to the lofty expectations that come with a price tag that large. And Alonso, always a favorite, nonetheless became something of a lightning rod when he made comments fans deemed too optimistic after getting swept by the Phillies.
But that was last year, and the Mets, under Buck Showalter, have something of a different vibe this season. They have the best record in baseball through 12 games (though doing well in April doesn’t mean a whole lot), but winning has also more fully allowed Alonso and Lindor to put their personalities on display.
That means Lindor celebrating driving in the tying run in the third inning of Game 1 on Tuesday, or Alonso jumping, pointing and fist pumping when a replay went his way in the 10th inning of the same game. Or the two of them being part of the raucous celebration when Lindor finally won the thing in the bottom of the inning (the team tried to rip his shirt off).
And, for two guys who generally hit back-to-back in the heart of the order, it means a friendship that’s continuing to grow in Flushing. It also makes for a duo of formidable foes for opposing pitchers. Alonso entered Wednesday with three homers, 14 RBIs and eight runs scored. Lindor came into the game against the Giants hitting .310 with three homers, nine RBIs and three stolen bases. He had a 1.061 OPS – 10th-best in baseball.
“I can see him when I’m in the dugout and I’m in the dugout as well or when he’s on the bases running around,” Lindor said, grinning. “He looks like he’s falling every time [he's running] but he’s doing everything. You’ve got to love a guy that goes out there and grinds and competes.”
Showalter touched on some of the dugout hijinks Tuesday, though he appeared mystified by them. There’s something they do where they play around and shuffle four cards, he said. He has no idea what’s going on, only that they look like they’re having fun.
Alonso likes the way he and Lindor bring the energy, and he especially likes what it means for the rest of the team.
“He plays the game hard, and so do I and I feel like because we have this really aggressive and attacking mentality, whether it’s on the defensive or offensive side of the ball,” he said. “I feel like we work well in that way.”
But of course, not everyone is like that. And that’s perfectly fine. Their enthusiasm may be infectious, but it doesn’t mean their temperaments have to be. (Plus, 28 guys bringing all that energy could potentially cause the dugout to combust.)
“I would hope so,” Lindor said when asked if their joy rubs off on their quieter teammates. “You know, not everyone expresses themselves the same way, but I would hope that vibe, that positivity and happiness, it bounces onto other guys. You want them to also be happy. They don’t have to express it the way we do, but I hope it does.”