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SportsColumnistsAnthony Rieber

Francisco Lindor, Mets suffer through trying episode of Chopped

Tampa Bay Rays' Joey Wendle, center reaches second

Tampa Bay Rays' Joey Wendle, center reaches second base with a double ahead of the tag by Mets shortstop Francisco Lindor, right, during the seventh inning of a baseball game Saturday, May 15, 2021, in St. Petersburg, Fla.  Credit: AP/Chris O'Meara

Say what you want about Francisco Lindor — and Mets fans certainly have a lot to say about their .197-hitting, green-haired, $341 million shortstop — but he has not been boring during his short time in New York.

When you have the talent, the contract, and the ever-changing hair color, you’re not going to able to hide — although you are going to be able to skip the postgame Zoom news conference, as Lindor did after the Mets’ 12-5 loss to the Rays on Saturday in St. Petersburg.

The Mets made three players available and Lindor was not one of them. Such is life in the Zoom era, which hopefully will come to an end as soon as it is safe for reporters to go back into the clubhouse.

(This is not a criticism of the Mets; like all teams, they are doing the best they can with this unfortunate format. Wrangling players to appear on Zoom after a loss cannot be easy. After a win? There’s probably a stampede for the mics.)

Anyway, it would have been nice to get Lindor’s take on one of the key plays of the Mets’ second straight loss. It was a high chopper to short with the bases loaded, no outs and the infield in in the eighth with the Mets trailing 6-5.

Manager Luis Rojas brought in Jeurys Familia to use his power sinker to get a grounder against Yandy Diaz. Familia did. The ball hit the dirt in front of home plate and went out to short, where it awkwardly bounced off Lindor’s glove for a two-run double.

Tampa Bay went on to score six in the inning to turn a close game into a perceived blowout.

"We got the chopper, but we just couldn’t make the play there," Rojas said. "It was kind of like the inning erupted after that."

Rojas talked about the play. Pete Alonso did, too. There was a lot of discussion about the Tropicana Field artificial turf, but the ball never struck the turf until after it went off Lindor’s glove.

"Fama executed the pitch," Alonso said. "We just got a really unlucky bounce."

Still, Lindor is a two-time Gold Glove award winner, and you’d have to assume he would like another chance at that game-changing play. Maybe he would have said he thought it bounced off a rat or a raccoon.

"You expect Francisco to make all those plays," Rojas said. "The ball just hit down hard and bounced in an atypical way. It took Francisco back. I don’t know if he’s going to get the out at home plate, and we talked about it; he was going to go to second trying to get the double play that way. But we couldn’t get an out on that play and it helped the inning build up like it did."

The next batter, Joey Wendle, hit a nearly identical ball to short — off the dirt in front of the plate, but not as high a chopper — and it eluded the diving Lindor, who was shifted toward second base.

Nothing Lindor could have done there. But he despises the shift, and perhaps that thought went through his mind as he dusted himself off after another grounder to his position became a two-run double.

The Mets were desperately trying to keep it a one-run game after they had blown an early 4-1 lead. With Jacob deGrom sidelined, Rojas used an opener instead of a traditional fill-in starter.

It didn’t work. Pitcher No. 2 Joey Lucchesi was charged with four runs in 1 2/3 innings as the Rays scored five runs in the fourth, the first of their two bat-around innings.

As for Lindor, the living room boo-birds were no doubt muttering to themselves in the fifth when he struck out for the third straight time and sixth time in seven at-bats over two days.

Three innings later, Lindor hit a solo homer — his first hit with his new hair color, proving it’s not easy being green — to bring the Mets to within 6-5.

Lindor was in the middle of things all day, for better and worse. That’s what happens when you sign the big contract to play in the big city. The spotlight will find you, whether you really want it or not.

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