WASHINGTON — Francisco Lindor lowered his lower lip. The inside of his mouth was bloody, the outside cut and swollen. And despite all that, he said, he felt lucky.
“I got really lucky,” Lindor told ESPN on Friday night, hours after an 88mph fastball from Steve Cishek hit the protruding C-flap of his helmet, ricocheted off his face and left a trail of blood. “It could have been much worse.”
On the night after fellow New York Mets star Pete Alonso suffered a similar blow from a Washington Nationals pitcher, Lindor hit a pitch to the face in the fifth inning, prompting a bench clearance incident in the Mets’ 7-3 win at Nationals. Park who pushed his record to 2-0 to start the season.
Mets manager Buck Showalter came out of the dugout angry and screaming after Lindor was the fourth New York player hit in the first two games – three of them on up and down pitches. Referees ejected Cishek, team manager Mark Carlson told a poolside reporter, because he “continued to escalate the situation…by coming towards the scrum”.
“When it hit him, it shocked me,” Cishek said. “I don’t think I’ve ever punched a southpaw in the face or in the head before. I kind of put my head down. My first intention was to go over there and see if he was okay. When I was doing that, I realized was a bad idea because I kinda ignited the bench on the other side.”
Lindor, the 28-year-old shortstop in his second season with the Mets, had squared off with the bunt, and Cishek said he was aiming to throw a lead high and low. He simply went higher and further than he had planned. Lindor said the pitch may have cracked one of his molars. X-rays looking for broken bones were negative, and Lindor was tested for a concussion.
When asked if he thought the throw was intentional, Lindor replied: “I doubt it” and that he appreciated that Cishek came to apologize and shake his hand as he received medical care.
“It was unintentional,” Cishek said, “and I wish it never happened.”
After spending a few moments face down in the batter’s box, Lindor got up and walked around amid the commotion, during which no punches were thrown. He wore a live microphone, and the Apple TV+ show later played a soundbite of him telling Showalter, “No, no, you’re not kicking me out.” Lindor ended up leaving the game in fifth, replaced at shortstop by Luis Guillorme.
“I’m proud to be a New York Met,” Lindor said. “I got hit. I was on the ground. I heard stuff. I look up. And my whole team is over there – all the coaching staff is over there.”
Among them, Showalter and third baseman coach Joey Cora have been the most zealous. The two remained in the Mets dugout after the blow-by-blow. Nationals third baseman coach Gary DiSarcina was also ejected, Carlson said, “due to his aggressive behavior when clearing the bench.”
Lindor said he hopes to play in the Mets game on Saturday, like Alonso did the day after Mason Thompson hit him in the face with a 95mph fastball and left similar marks, with cuts inside and outside his lower lip. Mets catcher James McCann was also hit in Game 1 by a pitch from Andres Machado, although he avoided getting hit in the face.
Showalter said after Game 1 that he was “not happy” with the hits, and he reiterated his displeasure after the Lindor incident.
“It’s pretty self-explanatory,” Showalter said. “I got hit by another pitch. What do you want me to say?
“The referees thought it was worthy of an expulsion. I’ll leave it at that.”