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After thumbs-down episode, how will Citi Field fans react when Mets take the field on Tuesday?

Washington Nationals shortstop Luis Garcia (2) looks on

Washington Nationals shortstop Luis Garcia (2) looks on as Mets' Francisco Lindor (12) gestures after his double scored Patrick Mazeika and Jonathan Villa during the eighth inning of a baseball game Sunday, Aug. 29, 2021. Credit: AP/Corey Sipkin

Suddenly, a late-August weekday afternoon game between two losing teams is one of the most interesting Mets moments of the season.

They will have to face their home fans — twice — on Tuesday during a doubleheader against the Marlins, their first on-field action since Javier Baez said that the recent thumbs-down celebrations from him, Francisco Lindor and others was a form of booing their own fans, a surprising revelation that drew a strong rebuke from team president Sandy Alderson.

The teams will play at 1 p.m., a resumption of their April 11 matchup that was suspended after nine pitches because of rain. Then Citi Field will clear out and a new crowd will enter for the regularly scheduled 7 p.m. contest.

Will fans boo the Mets’ boos of their boos? Or maybe go the reverse-psychology route and cheer? Or offer silent double-thumbs-downs?

After the team’s day off Monday, the Tuesday games should provide in-person answers about how money-spending fans feel about Baez’s comments and the Mets’ actions.

"When we don’t get success, we’re going to get booed," Baez said Sunday. "So they’re going to get booed when we get success."

One sign Monday that the Mets were trying to move on, even as it was the top topic of Mets-related conversation: As Lindor signed autographs at the US Open, one Mets fan recommended, "Thumbs-up from now on." Lindor smiled and obliged by indeed flashing a thumbs-up.

Baez playing in the first game Tuesday is not a guarantee.

Because the Mets and Marlins will pick up exactly where they left off on that rainy Sunday afternoon — top of the first inning, one out, a runner at first, Jesus Aguilar in a 2-and-0 count against Marcus Stroman — Baez isn’t in the lineup yet. Instead, it is Jeff McNeil playing second base, though the Mets are allowed to insert Baez or anyone else on the roster into the game. Taijuan Walker, for example, is scheduled to pitch instead of Stroman (who did so Saturday and won’t be available).

Baez recently displaced McNeil as the starting second baseman. McNeil has been on the bench in three of the past four games.

Amid the thumbs-down chaos, the Mets are sort of a mess on the field, too. They are 63-67 and were 7 1/2 games back in the NL East, pending the result of Atlanta’s game against the Dodgers late Monday. They haven’t won a series against a team other than the Nationals since taking two of three against the Blue Jays on July 23-25.

Since Aug. 10, when acting general manager Zack Scott called the team’s recent play "unacceptably bad," the Mets are 7-12.

Since Aug. 18, when owner Steve Cohen criticized the hitters via Twitter, the Mets are 4-7 and averaging 3.45 runs per game, below their season mark of 3.75 (which is second-to-last in the majors).

In the aftermath of Baez’s words, a few Mets players engaged on the subject on Twitter, with a variety of approaches.

"Felt nothing but love in NYC," wrote Kevin Pillar, who did the thumbs-down on Sunday. "No I’m not booing the fans. We are having fun. No different than earlier this year when we were [displaying OK hand symbols as a rallying cry]. Please don’t look too much into this."

 

One minute later, in response to a Mets supporter who commented that Pillar seemed to have no respect for fans, Pillar posted: "Hey Dan you don’t know [expletive] about me."

Walker published three laughing emojis, about half an hour after Alderson’s statement that said, in part, that the Mets’ gestures toward their own fans "are totally unacceptable and will not be tolerated." Stroman twisted the whole episode in such a way that he blamed reporters, who accurately quoted Baez.

"Media always searching for anything to cause controversy," Stroman wrote. "Stop playing into these narratives. It’s all fake [expletive]. We won [Sunday]. That’s all that matters. On to the next not dwelling on the past . . . same mindset we’ve had all year!"

Trevor May adopted a different tone, spending much of Monday interacting with fans, occasionally trying to explain that Baez was misunderstood and that, in flashing the thumbs-down Saturday, "disrespect is never my intent."

"To anyone over the years that wanted to grab an autograph and I didn’t get to you, or said hello and didn’t get a response, I’m sorry," May tweeted Sunday night. "Sometimes I won’t have energy, or will be in a hurry, but know I appreciate you none the less. I’ll be better in the future. Just been thinking about perspective and gratitude a lot lately and want to be better. Felt relevant."

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