There is a good chance that all the self-proclaimed experts out there, who wanted to send Ike Davis to the minors or move Davis’ batting stance closer to the plate or put poor Davis on a psychiatrist’s coach, never could have delivered the two-run eighth-inning single that Davis struck Sunday night to give the Mets an unlikely 4-2 victory over the Atlanta Braves.
For the pundits and geniuses, the overwhelming majority of them without major league experience, the answers to Davis’ brutal slump were easy enough. Not to Davis, who acknowledged hearing plenty of advice each time he stood in the on-deck circle and feeling “tenseness” return each time he would fall behind in the pitch count.
“It’s things like, ‘If you just moved 18 inches closer to the player, you’d hit a thousand….’ And it’s, like, no, that’s not going to happen,” he said.
“I mean, I haven’t been bombarded, because I don’t listen to a lot of people. Your whole life, you play baseball. And, your whole life, there’s a million theories how you’re supposed to hit, how to get more power or do—whatever. And growing up in the game, you kind of figure out a way to only take in stuff that would actually matter to you.
“Some of the stuff people start with, I just wash that out. ‘That’s not going to help at all.’ There are some things that you can pick up on that might help you. But, a lot of times, either you don’t understand it or your approach, to do your job, it doesn’t make sense for you to do. So there’s a lot of things I just let go.
There are some things that stick and are more to your style of game.”
For days—weeks, really—fans were booing. Media types were calling for his dismissal to Triple-A. “Pray for him,” teammate Daniel Murphy said of Davis.
As was posted prominently on the Citi Field scoreboard and in various publications, Davis’ average had slipped below .150 going into Sunday’s game—failure personified. General manager Sandy Alderson and manager Terry Collins continued to assert there was “no deadline” on a decision whether to replace Davis at first base, but throughout the organization, there was a shared frustration.
In his first at-bat Sunday, Davis drew a walk. Better than recent alternatives. In his second, he hit a ground ball headed for the hole between first and second….
But Atlanta second baseman Dan Uggla dived to his left and smothered the ball, scrambled to his feet and threw to first, apparently robbing Davis of a desperately needed hit. Except Uggla’s throw was low, allowing Davis the split-second he needed to beat out the hit.
Davis called Uggla’s diving stop “standard” for his 2013 season.
“Uggla makes an amazing play,” Davis said, “and I’m, like, ‘Well, that’s the way it’s going.’ But then he bounces it and I was safe and I was, like, ‘That’s a change.’”
Davis grounded out in the seventh. Then, with one out and the bases loaded in the eighth, the Mets having just tied the game at 2-2 on John Buck’s single, Davis got the game-winner. He had been trying to hit the ball in the air against Atlanta reliever Cory Gearrin to avoid hitting into a double play, but instead hit a sharp grounder through the right side of the infield.
“I just felt, finally, I did something productive,” Davis said. “And that’s the best feeling, doing something productive. Especially in the late innings. Definitely feels great.”
He did not pretend to have solved some baseball Rubik’s Cube. But after Friday’s game had been suspended by rain, “I hit seriously for probably two hours,” Davis said. “And the next day, I felt like I tore everything in my side. That game, I kind of felt, I can’t do this anymore. It’s over. Something is going to chance.
“And, so far [since then], I’m 3-for-5, so that’s definitely an improvement.”