Jesse Winker’s uniform has changed from Cincinnati red to Seattle blue, but he still likes to wear the bad guy’s black hat when he comes to Queens.
Winker, who was loudly booed before every Saturday at-bat against the Mets, hit a three-run tie home run in the seventh inning and then taunted the Citi Field crowd by waving to them as he crossed home plate. But Mets fans got the last laugh when Winker faced Edwin Diaz in the Mets’ 5-4 win in the Finals.
“I’ll 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 have going is special. They’re fun.”
The tie in the seventh inning was short-lived because Mets catcher Patrick Mazeika homed late in the inning, but Winker’s homer, which set the score at 4-4, was the final back-and-forth between Mets fans and an unlikely villain. Most of the players who have drawn the wrath of Mets fans in the past have a better resume than Winker, who bats just a .217 even after a 2-on-4 night.
While Winker isn’t exactly Pete Rose or Chipper Jones, he began firing back at Citi Field fans during a streak while he was with the Reds in 2019. In the first game of the series, he hit a go-ahead home run and waved to fans at the end of the game. Two nights later, he made a slip catch to end the game and waved again.
On Saturday night, the Mets were going 4-1 when the bullpen ran into trouble. They brought in Chasen Shreve to face Winker with two runners in the seventh. Winker smashed a 3-1 fastball over the fence at right center to tie the game. Winker took his time admiring the goal first. After crossing home plate, he waved to the fans. Returning to left field at the end of the inning, he stretched out his arms and looked over the left field fence at the fans.
Winker had a chance to level the game again in the ninth when he faced Diaz with two outs and gave the Mets a 5-4 lead. But he lashed out after a hard eight-pitch bat that involved a long foul ball that would have been a homer had it stayed fair.
“[Diaz] came to the top and they were allowed to wave goodbye to me. It’s kind of perfect the way it works,” Winker said. “You gotta love baseball. It’s poetry. It is wonderful. For this little game in May it was perfect. For their side, it’s probably exactly how they wanted it to close.”