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Francisco Lindor working through slump, Mets have few alternatives

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Whenever a hole has been patched in this .500 season for the Mets, another leak has sprung.

The rotation, a concern for the first two months of the season, appears to have steadied itself. But as Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander — the two well-paid, star starting pitchers — take a step forward, it has become evident that their well-paid star shortstop may have taken a step back.

The list of current Mets worries might begin with Francisco Lindor, whose talent is not average but whose offensive production thus far has been fairly average.

Lindor sports a .688 OPS through 60 games, which entered play Monday as the 26th best among 48 players who had taken at least 50 plate appearances as a shortstop.

Lindor’s power is present, but his contact has been down. A player at the top of the Mets’ order literally every game, and sporting a $341 million contract, has not yet performed like a top-of-the-order bat.

“Last year I went through [a slump], and it hurt,” Lindor said this weekend, when he finished up a 2-for-22 homestand that included eight strikeouts. “This year I’m going through it, and it hurts. I’ll probably go through it late in the year again, and it will hurt the same amount. It’s just one of those [things] that you’ve got to work [your way out of].”

Francisco Lindor and the Mets were blanked by the Tigers on Thursday.
Getty Images

Working has never been a problem for Lindor, who played 161 games last season and is on pace for 162 starts this season. He hit well in April, worse in May and worst through four June games.

If he needs a day off, the Mets appear to be letting Monday’s off-day qualify as Lindor’s rest day.

Lindor has said he prefers to play his way out of slumps rather than sit for a day or two.

Even when he is not hitting, Lindor’s solid glove makes him valuable, regardless, to a Mets team that has few alternatives.

Francisco Lindo reacts after striking out against the Blue Jays.
Charles Wenzelberg / New York Post

If not Lindor, then … Jeff McNeil? Eduardo Escobar? Buck Showalter has even mentioned Mark Canha as a candidate.

“Who would play shortstop?” the manager asked rhetorically Sunday before addressing McNeil, Pete Alonso and Brandon Nimmo, too. “They’re good players. They will seek their level. Sooner or later they seem to always follow the track record. Right now, it’s not happening in some cases.”

Lindor is not chasing pitches out of the zone much and is hitting the ball slightly harder than last season — but he is hitting far fewer balls in general.

Last year, Lindor struck out 18.8 percent of the time, which was the highest mark of his career. This year, he is striking out in 23.4 percent of his plate appearances.

In 12 at-bats against the Blue Jays this weekend, Lindor struck out eight times. Lindor, 6-for-48 (although half those hits have been home runs) in his past 12 games, believes it is a slump and nothing more.

“I feel good in the way that my swing has [been]. It’s there,” the shortstop said Saturday.

Lindor has two swings, one of which has been more effective.

The switch-hitter is crushing lefties (.850 OPS, with six of his 10 home runs) but scuffling against righties (.613 OPS and just a .199 average).

For his career, he has hit southpaws better, but not dramatically so.

Francisco Lindor reacts in frustration after striking out to end the fifth inning of the Mets' 2-1 loss to the Blue Jays.
Francisco Lindor reacts in frustration after striking out to end the fifth inning of the Mets’ 2-1 loss to the Blue Jays.
Charles Wenzelberg / New York Post

The Mets are not expected to see an opposing lefty starter in the larger-than-most, three-game series in Atlanta that begins Tuesday.

Games against Bryce Elder, Charlie Morton and Spencer Strider will put a bigger onus on players such as Lindor and lefties Brett Baty and Daniel Vogelbach.

Even if Lindor’s struggles continue, his bat likely will remain in the lineup — at least until a capable backup such as Luis Guillorme or Ronny Mauricio gets called up.

“Somebody’s 90 percent might be better than somebody else’s 95,” Showalter said.

The Mets do not have a Plan B.

An offense that has averaged 2.5 runs in its past six games — a span in which Mets batters have hit just .177 — needs Lindor to come around.

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