NEW YORK (AP) — Javier Báez and his New York Mets teammates turned the boos at Citi Field to cheers this weekend — and then turned their thumbs upside down at fans.
Báez launched a 444-foot home run Sunday in a 9-4 win over the Washington Nationals. Later, he said Mets players have been flashing the thumbs-down gesture after hits as a response to fans who have jeered the club during a rough August.
“When we don’t get success, we’re going to get booed,” Báez said. “So they’re going to get booed when we have success.”
The Mets are 8-19 this month, dropping them from the NL East lead to third place, 7 1/2 games behind the division-leading Atlanta Braves.
Báez, his good friend Francisco Lindor and Kevin Pillar all were seen flashing the thumbs-down sign after hits Sunday.
Báez, who is batting .210 with 22 strikeouts in 62 at-bats since being acquired from the Chicago Cubs on July 30, said the booing doesn’t bother him but that it is discouraging.
“I love the fans and I like playing for the fans,” Báez said. “But we can’t have our fans against us.”
Manager Luis Rojas, who heard chants of “Fire Rojas” during a loss to the San Francisco Giants on Wednesday night, said he wasn’t aware what the downturned thumbs meant.
“I didn’t know there was any intention of giving anything back to the fans,” Rojas said. “We want to win for the organization. We want to win for ourselves, we want to win for our front office, our owner and we want to win for our fanbase. So that’s where the focus should be.”
Rojas said the reaction by Báez could be part of the adjustment process following the first trade of his career. Lindor, who signed a 10-year extension before playing a game with the Mets, and Pillar are also in their first years in New York.
“I think it’s something that he’s probably getting used to — it’s the first time he’s had another uniform,” Rojas said. “Probably that’s why he’s sharing (and) venting. It’s a learning experience. There’s different guys that probably felt that way coming into here and probably not performing immediately. But they learned how to deal with it and they know where the fanbase is coming from.”
Lindor forced a run-scoring balk and hit a two-run double and new leadoff hitter Jonathan Villar hit a two-run homer as the Mets won the final two games of the three-game sert. It was their first series win since sweeping three from the Nationals on Aug. 10-12.
The Mets have scored 14 runs since Rojas shuffled the lineup Saturday. New York stole two bases in each of the last two games, the first time it’s done so since June 18-19, 2019.
“We tried this yesterday with Villar at the top and we tried again today and it’s worked well,” Rojas said “I’m just glad that we’re creating more situations to score runs.”
Villar missed the cycle by a double and scored three times. He and Brandon Nimmo, who moved from leadoff to the second spot Saturday, combined to reach base seven times in 10 plate appearances.
Báez’s homer put the Mets ahead for good 3-2 in the fourth inning.
Pete Alonso had an RBI single among his three hits and Dominic Smith delivered a run-scoring, pinch-hit single.
Josh Bell homered twice and Juan Soto also connected for Washington. Those were the Nationals’ only three hits.
Tylor Megill (2-3) allowed two runs on one hit — a fourth-inning, two-run homer by Bell — over five innings.
Soto homered off Aaron Loup leading off the sixth — the first homer surrendered by the Mets lefty to a a left-handed hitter since Tampa Bay’s Corey Dickerson connected in 2017.
Bell homered again in the eighth. The two-homer game was the first of the season for Bell and the sixth of his career.
Fedde allowed five earned runs on eight hits, including the homers by Báez and Villar, in 5 1/3 innings.
“The pitch to Baez and the one to Villar were just pretty bad pitches in general,” said Fedde, who whirled and crouched as soon as Báez made contact on his homer.
The Nationals announced they will recall catcher Keibert Ruiz, who became their top prospect upon being acquired from the Los Angeles Dodgers in last month’s Max Scherzer-Trea Turner blockbuster trade, prior to Monday night’s home game against the Philadelphia Phillies.
Ruiz, 23, hit .308 with five homers and 14 RBIs for Triple-A Rochester.
“We feel like he’s ready to come up and get an opportunity to play up here and watch him play,” Nationals manager Dave Martinez said. “We’re all excited about it. He’s part of our future here.”
“We’ll see how this is all going to work out, but we want to give him an opportunity to play,” he said. “We’re going to play him as much as we can.”
Josh Reddick, who signed a minor league contract with the Mets on Aug. 13, exercised his opt-out and was released Sunday. The 34-year-old Reddick hit .258 in 54 games this season for the Arizona Diamondbacks before hitting .182 in 11 games for Triple-A Syracuse.
Mets: C Tomas Nido (left thumb) missed a second straight game, leaving Patrick Mazeika as the Mets’ lone healthy catcher. Mazeika was tended to by trainers after taking a foul ball off his knee in the eighth but stayed in the game.
Nationals: RHP Josiah Gray (0-1, 3.75 ERA), acquired with Ruiz from the Dodgers, will throw to him Monday when he makes his sixth start for Washington in the opener of a three-game series against the Philadelphia Phillies.
Mets: After an off-day Monday. RHP Taijuan Walker (7-9, 3.82 ERA) will “relieve” teammate Marcus Stroman and RHP Trevor Williams (4-2, 4.54 ERA) will start the second game of Tuesday’s unusual setup against the Miami Marlins. Stroman got just one out before the nine-inning game between the teams was suspended due to rain on April 11. The second game will be seven innings.
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