GIF: Ike Davis' big hit offers hope he's stopped slide
Ike Davis finally got a hit — two of them, in fact, including a big one. The Mets' first baseman came into Sunday night in the throes of a 2-for-44 slump over his last 13 games, but with talk of a possible trip to Triple-A swirling around him, he collected a pair of hits, including a two-run eighth-inning single that gave the Mets just their fourth win in their past 16 games, and snapped the Braves' winning streak at eight.
Davis' first hit of the night came in the fourth inning of Braves starter Julio Teheran, via a groundball to second base that was generously scored an infield single. That hit, which didn't figure in the scoring, came after three batters after Lucas Duda's solo homer had given the Mets a 1-0 lead. Dan Uggla's two-run homer in the top of the seventh gave the Braves the lead, but in the bottom of the eighth, a Justin Turner single, a Duda double, and a John Buck single tied the score at 2-2. After Mike Baxter was hit by a Cory Gearrin pitch to load the bases, Davis followed with a sharp single through the right side to score both Buck and Duda, giving the Mets a 4-2 lead they held onto via Bobby Parnell's 1-2-3 ninth against Jason Heyward, Justin Upton and Freddie Freeman. Here's the hit:
The two-hit night was just Davis' fourth multi-hit game of the season; his previous one had been on May 10 against the Pirates, just before the start of a slump that included both an 0-for-24 stretch and an 0-for-17 one. Even with the two hits, he's still batting just .158/.246/.250 with four homers, but he did rid himself of a couple of ignominious distinctions, at least for the moment. The combination of his big night and B.J. Upton's 0-for-3 with three strikeouts dropped the latter's line to .148/.236/.252, for the lowest batting average and OPS of any NL qualifier. Davis struck out 19 times in 44 at-bats during his slide, but he didn't strike out on Sunday, so his 31.6 percent strikeout rate slipped into fourth in the league behind only Upton (34.1 percent), Uggla (33.2 percent) and the Pirates' Pedro Alvarez (32.1 percent).
Given contact woes and odd defensive lapses, the Mets have discussed optioning the 26-year-old Davis to Triple-A Las Vegas. After he struck out four times in four plate appearances during a suspended game on Friday, manager Terry Collins wondered aloud, “When you see what he did last night, you say to yourself, 'Is this the time? Is now the time?'" Collins told reporters that Davis has major flaws in his swing that need to be corrected, but added, "If you start to remake his swing, you can’t do it here because you don’t have the time.'"
Working in Davis' favor at least somewhat are two factors. First, he started abysmally last year as well, hitting just .170/.228/.296 with five homers through May, but dug himself out and batted .253/.341/.536 with 27 homers the rest of the way. Between between a bout of Valley Fever and a comeback from a left ankle injury that limited him to 36 games in 2011, he at least had some excuses that he lacks this year.
Second, the Mets are hitting just .228/.299/.375 as a team, and they don't have many appealing options to replace him. Daniel Murphy could move over from second base to allow a platoon of Justin Turner (.282/.316/.324) and Jordany Valdespin (.207/.278/.366). Lucas Duda could shift from left field in favor of a platoon of Valdespin and Mike Baxter (.230/.341/.297), or a mix involving Collin Cowgill or Kirk Nieuwenhuis, who could be recalled from Triple-A. Las Vegas first baseman Zach Lutz is another option, but he's a 26-year-old organizational player hitting just .279/.359/.422 while playing half his games in one of the minors' most hitter-friendly ballparks. None of those players offers the power potential of Davis, though given that he hasn't homered since April 25, that may not matter much. For the moment at least, the Mets (18-29) can stop mulling those scenarios and hope their current first baseman is onto something, and that he can use last season's turnaround as a template for this one.