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Winker gives Harvey thumbs up, then hits HR

@m_sheldon
August 20, 2020

One of baseball's hottest hitters, Jesse Winker, showed his respect to former teammate Matt Harvey on Wednesday night, early in the Reds' 5-0 victory over the Royals at Kauffman Stadium. In the first inning, when the Royals’ pitcher retired Winker with a fastball for a called third strike, he gave

One of baseball's hottest hitters, Jesse Winker, showed his respect to former teammate Matt Harvey on Wednesday night, early in the Reds' 5-0 victory over the Royals at Kauffman Stadium.

In the first inning, when the Royals’ pitcher retired Winker with a fastball for a called third strike, he gave Harvey, who pitched for the Reds in 2018 and was making his Royals debut, a thumbs up.

"I didn't notice it at the time," Harvey said. "I saw it after the game. It was pretty funny."

“My first reaction was, ‘damn, that was a good pitch.’ It was a fastball that came back,” Winker said. “It was just a raw reaction. Harvey is a former teammate and I enjoyed his time in Cincinnati. He was a good guy.”

The next time, it was Winker who had the upper hand.

Winker opened the scoring with a two-run homer in the top of the third inning, and Eugenio Suárez made it 3-0 when he followed with a homer to center field in Game 2 of a doubleheader.

How did Harvey feel about giving up the home runs to his former teammates?

"Not good," he said. "Not a good feeling."

It was Winker’s sixth homer of 2020, all of which have come in his last seven games. During this stretch, he is batting .600 (12-for-20) with a 2.292 OPS and nine RBIs. He was the only Cincinnati batter that starter Brad Keller could not retire in Game 1. Winker drew three walks in three plate appearances during the Reds’ 4-0 loss to the Royals.

Struggling to learn the DH role early on, Winker was batting .087 on Aug. 3. His tear since has raised his overall average to .357 with a Major League leading 1.225 OPS.

“I don’t think about baseball on a personal level right now,” Winker said. “And I really never think about baseball on a personal level. I just want to come here and help the team win and stay consistent with my routine.”

If there were any concerns that Winker’s hot streak would be interrupted by the team’s recent layoff, it was put to rest.

“He's kind of been putting the Reds on his back right now,” catcher Curt Casali said. “That's pretty impressive. It's also kind of scary because he's not really talking to anybody right now, he's kind of just in one of those zones.”

After Winker hit two homers in Friday’s 8-1 win over the Pirates, the team’s next three games were postponed after a Reds player tested positive for COVID-19.

The team was cleared by MLB to return with a doubleheader at Kansas City on Wednesday. But because of contact tracing and his proximity to the infected teammate, Winker was one of three Reds players who had to undergo additional testing before they could be allowed to resume.

“We flew separately. We quarantined in our room. Then we got the green light that we were able to play last night,” Winker said.

Winker, Kyle Farmer and Josh VanMeter flew on Reds CEO Bob Castellini’s private jet from Cincinnati to Kansas City.

“I’m just thankful for the MLB getting us back on the field as quick as they did,” Winker said. “Everything that’s going on in the world today, we went through some protocols and some hurdles to get here. I was just happy we could play two here in Kansas City and kind of get going with our season.”

Mark Sheldon has covered the Reds for MLB.com since 2006, and previously covered the Twins from 2001-05. Follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook.