Mariners’ Jesse Winker: His weird start to season, fun with Mets fans

May 17, 2022, 11:41 AM
Mariners Jesse Winker...
Jesse Winker of the Seattle Mariners celebrates after hitting a three-run home run to right field in the seventh inning against the New York Mets at Citi Field. (Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
(Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

Jesse Winker has had an interesting start to his Mariners career in 2022.

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The 2021 All-Star outfielder has seemingly seen a lot less luck than usual this season with a .250 batting average on balls in play (his career mark is .307, per Fangraphs), and he has as many walks as strikeouts while rarely swinging and missing. Additionally, the left-handed hitter has performed better against lefties (.302 average, .956 OPS) than righties (.186, .506) this season, which has never come close to happening in his previous five MLB seasons.

The 28-year-old former Cincinnati Reds standout has gotten better results of late, and he’s riding an eight-game hitting streak after hitting a double on Monday against the Blue Jays.

So what does he make of his 2022 campaign? He talked about that and much more during a Monday interview with Wyman and Bob on Seattle Sports 710 AM.

When asked about some of the bad luck that plagued him in the first month of the season, Winker kept it simple.

“It’s funny. It’s just baseball,” he said. “You just keep going up to the plate and playing.”

Entering Tuesday, Winker has a .225/.327/.326 slash line for a .653 OPS with two homers, seven doubles, 13 RBIs, 20 walks and 20 strikeouts. Despite most of those numbers not coming close to what he’s done over the course of his MLB career (.282/379/.488 slash for an .867 OPS over six seasons), Winker said he’s not worried about what’s seen as a slow start to the season.

“No season is made in any one month. It’s why you play for six months, it’s why you play all summer,” Winker said. “Just don’t really get caught up in luck and unluckiness. Obviously your your goal is to help the team win so there might be moments where you’re a little frustrated that a play or a swing or something you put in play could have maybe helped the team win. But at the same time, maybe it didn’t, so you just keep rolling and that’s all I’ve tried to do. I don’t really pay attention to the lucky/unlucky stuff that gets put out there. It’s my job to hit the ball hard and if they catch it, they catch it. It’s cliché, but it’s really the truth.”

While Winker has certainly hit better of late, the same can’t be said about the Mariners as a whole, with the team scoring four or more runs just five times in 15 games this month. Does that put more pressure on Winker, who was brought in to be a key offensive contributor?

“You could be playing anywhere and you want to perform. I think you’re always going to have expectations you put on yourself and that just comes from being a player who wants to play well. Everything else I think would be a built-in excuse outside of that, if that makes sense,” Winker said.

Being with a new organization and in a new city for the first time in his professional career, Winker said it’s his job to get comfortable with the Mariners – but he added that, “I really love it here.”

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“I really do. My teammates, coaching staff, the city. I’m getting used to everything, and I’ve kind of had to do it on the fly, but I’m enjoying it,” Winker said. “I am definitely happy, and then I’m definitely looking forward to continuing to go out and play and try to help the team win. But from a standpoint of anything extra, I kind of motivate myself and let everything else just fall into line.”

Rivalry with Mets fans

Something that Mariners fans learned over the weekend is that Winker and New York Mets fans are engaged in a pretty entertaining feud. That was on full display Saturday evening when Winker blasted a late three-run home run off Mets reliever Chasen Shreve, and he took his time rounding the bases before waving at fans to a loud chorus of boos.

Winker told Wyman and Bob that the back and forth began in 2019 while he was with the Reds, and he said he loves how passionate the Mets fanbase is.

That Saturday game in particular stood out, Winker said, because it was a cold and wet night that began with a rain delay, and Citi Field was still packed and very loud.

“It was fun to play there. It’s always fun to play there. It is my favorite place to go play on the road,” he said. “And, yeah, we have a special little relationship, and I appreciate them. It’s good little banter.”

Winker said that he and Mets fans have some “common ground” because he’s from Buffalo, N.Y., and is a Buffalo Bills fan.

“I root for a team up there that the fans are just like the Mets fans,” he said. “It’s literally the exact same crowd. Buffalo Bills home games are just like New York Mets home games, and I love it.”

Winker got the last laugh against those fans this time, as not only did he hit .417 in the series but the Mariners took two of three from the Mets. And when the series was wrapped up, Winker waved goodbye.

Listen to the full interview with Winker at this link or in the player below.

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