Francisco Lindor homers left-handed, Mets win 5th straight game

LOS ANGELES — Until Friday night at Dodger Stadium, Francisco Lindor had not recorded an extra-base hit from the left side of the plate. As a left-hander, Lindor had not recorded much success.

Although he has recently shown some flashes of coming out of an early-season slump, almost all of them have come as a right-handed hitter. On the left side, Lindor, who hit a switch, entered his seventh inning at bat batting .093.

So when Lindor finally unleashed a swing that could change all that, sending a two-run homer over the right-field fence to break the tie at Chavez Ravine and propel the Mets to a 9-4 victory over the Dodgers, it allowed a little emotion to show. As he touched first base, Lindor punched coach Antoan Richardson’s hand, then made a fist with his left and shook it tightly. As he crossed home plate, Lindor enveloped Starling Marte and DJ Stewart in bear hugs.

“Any time you have teammates and people supporting you, when you get results like that, I tend to release my emotions more,” he said. “Usually I just tap my chest a few times, thank the Lord and move on. But Marte was by my side, she stayed with me, and she was the first person I saw. So yes, I gave him a hug. And then Pete (Alonso), Stewart and everyone else partying in the dugout, it was pretty cool.

“Having success when the team needs it feels really good.”

It was the Mets’ fifth straight victory. The home run was Lindor’s fifth as a left-handed hitter since last year’s All-Star Game. He then added a single and his first stolen base.

Along the way, the Mets added plenty of other attacks on the Dodgers and starting pitcher Yoshinobu Yamamoto, an offseason free agent target who rejected their nine-figure offer to go to Los Angeles. Stewart homered against Yamamoto and scored three runs on the night, while Harrison Bader recorded three of his career-high four hits against him.

But it was Lindor who had the biggest hit of the night, moments after the Dodgers took advantage of two Joey Wendle errors to tie the score in the sixth. Hitting left-handed against right-handed reliever Daniel Hudson, Lindor threw his weight into a 3-2 hanging slider and sent it into the stands at Dodger Stadium.

“Hitting a switch is not easy,” manager Carlos Mendoza said. “Hitting in the big leagues is difficult, let alone hitting in switch. There will be times when you feel better on one side than the other, and right now, that’s the case. But I like the at-bats lately from the left side.

For Lindor, hitting a switch has always been both an art and a science. When Lindor finds something that works on one side of the plate, he tries to replicate it. The shortstop’s movements aren’t perfectly symmetrical, but they’re close enough that his mechanics from one batter’s box can carry them into the other.

“I try to be the same player on both sides,” Lindor said.

Although he’s always been a better hitter from the right side of the plate, that’s not particularly unusual; Almost all switch hitters are stronger on one side – usually their natural side. And historically, Lindor’s divisions have never been so marked. In 2022, for example, Lindor’s OPS was only five points different on each side of the plate. Over the first eight years of his career, he had an OPS of .826 on the right side and .811 on the left.

But Lindor’s splits last season were unusually skewed, particularly in the second half. The trend became even more apparent early this season, when almost all of his production came as a right-handed hitter against left-handed pitchers. Lindor’s half was so lost that earlier this week, a reporter asked Mendoza if his star shortstop might consider ditching switch hitting altogether.

Mendoza laughed at the question, and two days later, Lindor seemed to unlock something. In the third round against Yamamoto, he missed a splitter shot – by his own estimate – by about half an inch. In the fifth, Lindor sent a ball 292 feet into the glove of center fielder Andy Pages.

Finally, in the seventh, he found what he was looking for – and at the time, Lindor didn’t really care whether it came right, left or backwards.

“I could walk up to the plate standing in the middle of the plate and swing straight down,” Lindor said with a laugh. “If I succeed, I will always have the same emotion.”

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