From hugs to hatred in 24 hours.
The spirit of togetherness fostered by the Mets and Yankees for Saturday’s 9/11 remembrance at Citi Field was long gone by the middle innings of Sunday night’s series finale, when the simmering animosity of this rivalry boiled over to become a benches-clearing staredown in the seventh.
Francisco Lindor, the primary instigator, wound up having the last word when his third home run (not a misprint) caromed off the rightfield upper deck in the eighth to deliver the Mets’ wild 7-6 victory, an unreal capper to a crazy Subway Series.
It was only two weeks ago that Lindor was standing in front of the Mets’ dugout apologizing for a thumbs-down gesture designed to boo his own fan base. But Sunday night, after his winning blast, Lindor popped up from that same spot for a curtain call, basking in the adoration of the stadium that has jeered him so many times in his first season in Flushing.
"I don’t think Mets fans forget," Lindor said, smiling. "But when I came out of the dugout, it was special for sure. It was a good thing. We all want that."
We’ll be debating for years if Lindor is actually worth the $341 million handed to him by newbie billionaire owner Steve Cohen in the hours leading up to Opening Day. But he’s already proving to be a blue-and-orange lightning rod regardless, and Sunday night’s heroics, combined with antagonizing the Yankees, made him a Subway Series instant classic.
In that sense, Lindor is a perfect fit for the Mets, whose best revenge against the 27-time world champions is to set up residence inside their heads, rent-free. And make no mistake, the Mets damaged the Yankees, taking two of three, ending their winning streak at one and knocking them to a game behind in the wild-card race.
Not a bad weekend of work, and fortunately for Lindor, he was able to get in a jawing match with Giancarlo Stanton, albeit about 20 feet apart, and live to tell about it. How those two wound up yelling at each other, while Stanton rounded second base on his tying two-run homer in the seventh, depends on whom you ask.
Stanton said afterward that he told Lindor to stop yelling at his teammates. The Mets shortstop clearly was guilty of something to that effect during his first two home run trots, even putting his hand to his lips in a whistling motion — an accusation that the Yankees were stealing signs off Taijuan Walker the previous night. And when the 5-11 Lindor and the 6-6 Stanton squared off, the benches and bullpens soon emptied, too.
"There was a lot at stake," Stanton said. "Emotions are going to be up there."
As usual with baseball brawls, none of the Yankees got within arm’s reach of the Mets, though there were some amusing antics. Lindor and BFF Javy Baez waved toward the Yankees in a "come-get-some" gesture, and when they didn’t push any closer, the two switched to waving them away.
The gold medal goes to Brett Gardner, however, who stood in the middle of the throng and aggressively flashed Lindor and Baez the same "thumbs-down" sign they were using a few weeks back. Evidently, Gardner isn’t so focused on his job in the Bronx that he doesn’t know what’s going on over at the Flushing circus.
"I think you guys saw Lindor when he went around the bases," Aaron Boone said. "G gave a little bit back, and boys will be boys."
The mayhem dissipated before too long, and after tempers cooled and everyone went back to business, the Mets seemed to still ride that adrenaline surge.
Boone called on Chad Green to handle the eighth, but he retired only Jonathan Villar before Lindor crushed a 2-and-0 fastball for a spectacular blast that looked much like his grand slam off Green during Game 2 of the 2017 Division Series.
This time Lindor kept his eyes straight ahead, never even glancing toward the Yankees’ dugout as he circled third base and the Mets fans roared. There was no need to rub it in. Lindor’s homer stung worse than any punch.
"I respect the Yankees organization," Lindor said. "I have no beef against them. That’s not me. I don’t go out there fighting people. Today was just one of those days."
It was a great one for Lindor and the Mets.
The Yankees? Another one to forget.