Jesse Winker’s uniform has gone from Cincinnati red to Seattle blue, but he still loves wearing the villain’s black hat when he comes to Queens.
Winker, who was booed loudly before each at-bat Saturday against the Mets, hit a tying three-run home run in the seventh inning, then taunted the Citi Field crowd by waving to them as he crossed home plate. But Mets fans got the last laugh when Winker struck out swinging against Edwin Diaz for the final out in the 5-4 Mets’ win.
“I’m going to be honest with you, I love them,” Winker said of Mets fans. “They are an amazing group of people. They are very passionate about their team and their city. … This thing we’ve got going on is special. They’re fun.”
The seventh-inning tie was short-lived because Mets catcher Patrick Mazeika homered in the bottom of the inning, but Winker’s homer, which had made the score 4-4, was the latest back-and-forth between Mets fans and an unlikely villain. Most players who have drawn the ire of Mets fans in the past have greater résumés than Winker, who is batting just .217 even after a 2-for-4 night.
While Winker is not exactly Pete Rose or Chipper Jones, he began firing back at Citi Field fans in 2019 during a series while he was with the Reds. In the first game of the series, he hit a go-ahead home run and waved to the fans at the conclusion of the game. Two nights later, he made a sliding catch to end the game and again waved.
On Saturday night, the Mets were cruising 4-1 when the bullpen got into some trouble. They brought in Chasen Shreve to face Winker with two runners on in the seventh. Winker crushed a 3-1 fastball over the fence in right-center to tie the game. Winker took his time running to first to admire the hit. After he crossed home plate, he waved to the fans. When he returned to left field for the bottom of the inning, he stretched out his arms and looked at the fans over the left-field fence.
Winker had the chance to tie the game again in the ninth when he came up against Diaz with two outs and the Mets leading 5-4. But he struck out after a tough eight-pitch at-bat, which included a long foul ball that would have been a homer if it stayed fair.
“[Diaz] came out on top and they got to send me off with a wave. It’s kind of perfect how it works,” Winker said. “You’ve got to love baseball. It’s poetry. It’s beautiful. For that little game in May, it was perfect. For their side, it’s probably exactly how they wanted to close it.”