Word of Ike Davis' arrival Monday was enough to conjure up feelings of hope and excitement among Mets fans. And it didn't take long for the 23-year-old to deliver.
With the skill and poise of a veteran, he lined the sixth pitch of his first major-league at-bat over leaping second baseman Jeff Baker for the first hit of his career.
"I was really just trying to make contact today," said Davis (2-for-4), whose milestone night included his first RBI on an eighth-inning single to center.
Last night, the Mets reminded fans that it's still OK to think positive and even dream big this season.
Starter Jonathon Niese showed resilience, allowing one unearned run and eight hits in 52/3 innings, and Angel Pagan hit a two-run homer over the leftcenterfield fence in the seventh to propel the Mets to a 6-1 victory over the Chicago Cubs on Jackie Robinson Night.
The inconsistency that has plagued Niese did not surface. Instead, the 23-year-old lefthander showed flashes of brilliance and creativity.
He walked three and struck out seven to tie a career high. The last time he recorded that many strikeouts was Sept. 13, 2008, against Atlanta.
"I'm trying to mix in all my pitches," said Niese, who used an efficient combination of curveballs, cutters and changeups. "Rod [Barajas] and I had a good plan today . . . and it worked out."
The Mets, who entered the game batting .171 with runners in scoring position, finally churned out runs in crunch time. They loaded the bases in the fifth on back-to-back singles by Alex Cora and Niese and a walk to Pagan. Then Castillo hit a chopper up the middle that shortstop Ryan Theriot gloved, but he had no play, and Cora scored.
The Cubs tied it at 1 in the sixth, helped by Cora's throwing error.
Niese didn't self destruct with runners on first and third and one out in the fifth, striking out Xavier Nady and getting Aramis Ramirez to ground out. He threw 112 pitches (67 for strikes) in a no-decision.
"He seemed confident in being in those spots," manager Jerry Manuel said. "It didn't seem like he was rattled by the situation and I think that's a sign of maturity for him."
Fernando Nieve pitched 11/3 innings and allowed one hit in picking up the win. Jose Reyes, who did not start because of fatigue, pinch hit for Cora to lead off the seventh and was hit by a pitch. He scored what proved to be the winning run on Pagan's homer to ignite a five-run seventh.
The struggling Bay finally contributed, crushing a shot off the leftfield wall to drive in David Wright in the inning.
Wright (1-for-3) tied Jerry Grote for ninth place (994) on the Mets' all-time hit list in the fourth.
But much of the postgame talk centered around Davis.
"No words of encouragement are needed when you come out there and handle yourself the way he has,'' Wright said. " . . . Hopefully, now he can just take a deep breath, relax and hopefully do it again tomorrow."