LOS ANGELES - To Mets first baseman Ike Davis, the pitcher on the mound was Kryptonite personified.
Diamondbacks reliever Joe Thatcher is lefthanded, with a sidewinding delivery that makes picking up the baseball difficult for lefty hitters such as Davis. And in the seventh inning Sunday afternoon, Davis found himself on the brink of yet another failure.
He had chased a fastball that he couldn't have hit with a telephone pole. In the dugout, manager Terry Collins winced, then watched Davis take a fastball over the heart of the plate.
"And then," Collins said, "he just kind of settled in."
Indeed, Davis climbed out of the hole, eventually working a walk against a pitcher who allows opposing lefties to reach base at a .278 clip. It was a telling sign for Davis, who has gone about regaining trust with at-bats such as these.
That arduous process could take another important step this week, when Collins said Davis might start against one of two lefties slated to start for the Dodgers. It's a critical development for Davis. Since returning from his demotion to Triple-A Las Vegas, he has been platooned at first base with righthanded Josh Satin.
But for the first time, Collins has shown a willingness to allow Davis a shot against lefties.
"I'm ready to play at any time," said Davis, who singled in his first at-bat last night.
Collins said he's seen plenty of encouraging signs from Davis. His plate discipline has improved, along with his feel of the strike zone. He is laying off pitches he had chased earlier in the season and swinging at strikes he had missed.
"He's just swinging better, that's the main thing," Collins said. "When you're swinging like he's swinging, you can be dangerous."
Since rejoining the Mets on July 5, Davis is hitting .305 with a homer and nine RBIs with a healthy on-base plus slugging percentage of .933.
Much of that has come from Davis' ability to reach base. He has drawn 28 walks since his recall, which has translated into an on-base percentage of .482. But even with just one homer, Davis' nine doubles have propped up his .451 slugging percentage, a number that stacks up favorably to other first basemen in the National League.
"I'll take that," Collins said over the weekend.
To the manager, Davis' turnaround is evidence that a power surge might be around the corner.
Davis has been even more lethal in August. In 10 games, he's hitting .500 with an on-base percentage of .706.
"It's kind of odd," said Davis, who hit 32 homers a year ago. "I don't think a lot of people do it -- besides Barry Bonds. He did it awhile ago but he hit 80 home runs in a year. Obviously, I don't think I'll get on base three times a game every game. But lately it's been one or two a game and I want to continue to do that, take a walk, get a hit, and just have a good at-bat."
Davis' Bondsian production likely is not sustainable. However, the Mets will take anything close. With third baseman David Wright in danger of missing the remainder of the season, the Mets must replace his middle-of-the-order production.
Rookie Wilmer Flores has stepped in to play third base and has knocked in nine runs in his first six games. But it's Davis who has the track record that suggests he could take Wright's role as the most dangerous bat in the Mets' lineup.
"My last eight games, I've been doing pretty well," Davis said. "So if I can continue to just do what I'm doing and have good at-bats, I'm going to play better."