Queens’ best villain returns… but so does its hero

NEW YORK — Citi Field had its supervillain. He needed a superhero.

During a half-inning on Saturday night, Jesse Winker had fun waving to the crowd at Citi Field after his three-run tying homer in the top of the seventh. For years before, Winker had agitated the Queens fan base. He was the last person the home crowd wanted to see succeed.

Only this time, the Mets had an answer for him. Patrick Mazeika, who gained a cult following last year for his multiple RBIs, crashed a solo homer in the bottom of the seventh to lift the Mets to a 5-4 win over the Mariners. Two innings later, Edwin Díaz hit Winker on a 101 mph fastball to end it.

“Obviously it was really good,” Mazeika said. ” Great moment. Big team win. It was also an electric crowd. All in all a great evening.

For hours, it didn’t look like things would end so well for the Mets. It was only after an hour and eight-minute rain delay that the seat bowl at Citi Field began to fill up, as fans wiped down their plastic seats with paper towels. Many of those left behind found themselves on edge when starting pitcher Chris Bassitt charged in the first inning, allowed two more base runners in the third and two more in the fifth. In the sixth, Bassitt allowed his first run. Halfway through that inning, he was offside.

Through it all, a reported crowd of 37,140 remained boisterous, largely due to Winker – a player who initially drew the borough’s ire in 2019, when he made a late-game hold for the Reds in front of a particularly lively section of Fans. As he left the field that day, Winker playfully waved to the Citi Field crowd, who returned the favor later in the series when he was sent off for arguing over balls and balls. strikes.

With this, Winker became persona non grata in Flushing, inherited from Chipper Jones and Chase Utley. As Bassitt said, “New York fans are a little different.” So when Winker hit his tying homer in the seventh, laying it down before waving to the crowd again, the home fans – many of whom had chanted at Winker earlier in the game – got agitated. So did reliever Chasen Shreve, who yelled at Winker for his slow trot around bases, later saying “that’s a bit of a stretch.”

Winker was more perplexed by the situation.

“I’ll be honest with you guys, I love ’em,” Winker said of the Mets fanbase. “They are an incredible group of people. They are very passionate about their team and their city. And from a guy who, born in upstate New York, a big fan of that football team there, I can understand the passion and I respect it. This thing we have going is special.

Mets fans could say the same about their relationship with Mazeika, a longtime organizational wide receiver who hit a pair of first-choice defensemen over a five-day stretch last season. Mazeika joined the Mets on Friday when James McCann hit the disabled list, and he was in the starting lineup the following night. During the first innings of the match, Mazeika and Bassitt seemed to have trouble communicating, having never worked together in a match. But none of that mattered when Mazeika stepped up to the plate to lead the seventh, throwing Andrés Muñoz’s first pitch, fastball 97 mph over the fence for a homer.

“If the past few years have taught us anything, it’s that you have to be ready for anything,” Mazeika said. “Just kiss her. I will always be ready to play anytime. This mindset allowed me to come in and try to make the transition a little easier.

With Mazeika’s home run in the books, the Mets had only one challenge left, and of course, that was Winker. After Díaz retired the first two batters of the ninth inning, Winker fought back more, fouling several over-90-mph sliders as the crowd clung to each one.

“I wanted to get him out,” Díaz said. “It was a big start for us. He got us on the seventh. I didn’t want to be the guy who gave up the tying circuit, so I made sure my throws were mean to him.

Finally, on the eighth batting, Díaz fired a 101 mph fastball past Winker for the game finale. The villain had been defeated. The hero had won. The final chapter of the comic book battle was over.

“That’s why you get up in the morning,” manager Buck Showalter said. “You never know what the game has in store for you.”

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