From thumbs-down to thumbs-up: Javier Baez apologizes, then caps New York Mets' unlikely comeback...

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Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Hours after apologizing for a recent thumbs-down gesture meant as a dig atMetsfans, Javier Baez turned boos into cheers when he sprinted home from first for the game-ending run in New York's6-5 win over the visitingMiami Marlins on Tuesday.

He even gave a thumbs-up to the home crowd after celebrating with teammates.

Earlier Tuesday, Baez and Francisco Lindor took turns apologizing for the thumbs-down gesture they and teammate Kevin Pillar exhibited during Sunday's 9-4 win over the Washington Nationals. Baez said Sunday the gesture was the players' way of answering fans who had booed the Mets throughout August, when the team has gone 8-19 -- Tuesday's early result counts toward April -- to fall out of playoff position after leading the National League East for nearly three months.

Their apologies followed a stern statement from team president Sandy Alderson on Sunday night disavowing the gesture as well as a team meeting on Tuesday in which players said they would stop making it.

"I didn't mean to offend anybody,'' said Baez, who was acquired from the Chicago Cubs on July 30 and had hit .210 with four homers and a .709 OPS in 17 games before Tuesday.

Lindor added, "It doesn't look good on our part."

Lindor also said the gesture was not explicitly about fans.

"Thumbs-down for me means adversity, the adversity we have gone through in this whole time,'' Lindor said. "Like the negative things, we overcome it, so it's like, 'We did it! We went over it!'

"However, it was wrong, and I apologize to whoever I offended. It was not my intent to offend people."

Baez was booed when he entered as a pinch hitter during the eighth inning on Tuesday, in the resumption of a game suspended by rain on April 11. Fans in a sparse crowd stood and turned down their thumbs while he batted, jeering him until he was hit by a 2-2 pitch on the shin and walked to first.

They changed their tone in the ninth inning, however, as the Mets rallied from a 5-1 deficit. Fans chanted, "Javy Baez!'' as the two-time All-Star stood in with two on, two out and New York trailing 5-3. Baez beat out an infield single, earning an ovation after trimming the lead to 5-4. Baez then dashed home on Michael Conforto's single to left field.

"Winning is all we want," Conforto said. "Winning is all the fans want. We're all pulling in the same direction here. I don't know what one game does, but I can tell you this: The guys wanted to win this one about as badly as any other game we've played. In short, winning cures everything."

Baez lost an earring near home plate during the celebration, and teammates, coaches, grounds crew members and even Alderson were on the ground looking for it. The 73-year-old Alderson was still down on one knee picking through the grass with other team employees nearly half an hour after the final out.

Players began making the thumbs-down gesture toward their dugout after base hits and other positive plays while at Dodger Stadium from Aug. 20 to 22.

"I didn't say the fans are bad. I love the fans, but like, I just felt like we were alone,'' Baez said prior to Tuesday's game. "The fans obviously want to win, and they pay our salary, like everybody says; but like, we want to win too, and the frustration got to us. And, you know, I didn't mean to offend anybody, and if I offend anybody, we apologize.''

A four-time All-Star, Lindor was acquired from theCleveland Indiansover the offseason in the first major move for the Mets since Steve Cohen purchased the franchise. Lindor signed a 10-year, $341 million deal to remain in New York, but he has been jeered often during a season in which he is hitting .224 with 11 homers and a .686 OPS.

"I have sucked at times, and I haven't done my part when it comes to the offensive side," Lindor told reporters on Tuesday. "But I don't think that we have a bunch of guys just complaining all the time about the media, the fans, the city -- no, no, no.

"We're playing the game; we're trying to win. We're trying to do whatever it takes to win and represent the organization the right way."

Lindor heard some boos prior to his first plate appearance on Tuesday and went 0-for-3 with a walk and a sacrifice bunt. He and Baez shared a long hug near home plate after Baez scored the winning run.

"I hope this doesn't stick around, because it wasn't meant to offend anybody, to disrespect nobody," Lindor said. "This is just a time of trying to pick each other up. We're going through a rough time, and it was a gesture to pick each other up.''

The Mets also won Game 2 on Tuesday night, 3-1. That win, which was seven innings, gave the Mets three straight victories. New York, which entered the month with a four-game lead in the NL East, began Tuesday seven games back of the division-leading Atlanta Braves.

Pillar also has displayed the thumbs-down gesture, but hesaid after Sunday's game on Twitter not to "look too much into this" and that "we are having fun."

Mets manager Luis Rojas said he didn't know the meaning of the thumbs-down gesture until Baez's comments on Sunday.

"We're being accountable for some of those decisions, and that's what I see in this group,'' Rojas said. "This is a group of guys that I think is accountable for their actions.

"We have leaders in there that have explained how the media, the fans, everything is here,'' he added. "And myself, I have always told the guys how accountable we've got to be."

Cohen tweetedTuesday that he was "glad to hear our players apologizing to the fans'' and asked supporters to "get behind our players today.''

ESPN's David Schoenfield and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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