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With Dominic Smith out, J.D. Davis gets playing time and delivers

J.D. Davis #28 of the Mets celebrates his

J.D. Davis #28 of the Mets celebrates his seventh inning two run home run against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Citi Field on Saturday, July 27, 2019. Credit: Jim McIsaac

J.D. Davis got burned by a Trevor Williams fastball in the second inning. Expecting an offspeed pitch, Davis whiffed on a 92-mph offering from the Pirates starter before flying out to centerfield two pitches later.

A productive bat when given consistent playing time, Davis’ performance in his next two trips to the plate gave Mets manager Mickey Callaway enough confidence to tell reporters after the game that he’d be in the lineup again on Sunday.

“I think that he deserves it,” Callaway said. “Obviously, he’ll be in there tomorrow, or people would kill me.”

Callaway laughed as he delivered his remark after what was an easy evening for the Mets. Steven Matz’s 99-pitch shutout was made possible by home runs from Michael Conforto and Davis in the 3-0 win.

Davis is likely to see increased playing time with Dominic Smith on the injured list with a stress fracture in his left foot, which was announced by the team prior to Saturday's game.

“It’s bittersweet,” said Davis, who also doubled in the fifth inning and is hitting .413 in his last 20 starts. “He’s one of my good friends on the team, and to see him go down, you know, he’s a voice in this clubhouse, he’s a voice in the dugout. He’s a positive energy around us. To see him go down, it hurts all of us.”

After Williams fooled him, Davis went into his next at-bat with a different approach. It resulted in a double to right-centerfield that was tracked at 109 mph.

“I’m a guy that does my homework,” Davis said. “That first at-bat, 1-0, I thought he was going to come with the slider or something offspeed, just doing my homework and seeing his tendencies. But he blew a fastball by me. I think that kind of set myself up in the later part, and I kept note of that in the back of my head that he thinks he can beat me with the fastball.”

Davis said working with hitting coach Chili Davis has helped him to learn from bad games or bad tendencies, and for someone who hasn’t played every day, avoiding bad habits is key to earning more time.

One of the hardest parts, Davis said, is starting a game after a stretch in which he’s been on the bench.

“When I don’t play, I get two or three days off and then I come back in and the first two at-bats, it’s more about getting my timing down and really not being aggressive in those situations to see pitches,” Davis said. “When you’re playing every day, it’s a little bit easier. It’s a little easier on the mind knowing the fact you’re in the lineup the next day, or at least your timing is there every day.”

Acquired from the Astros on Jan. 6 in exchange for three minor leaguers, Davis fell victim to spotty playing time on a stacked Houston roster and has taken advantage of time with his new team. In 236 at-bats, he’s hitting .297 with 10 home runs and 28 RBIs.

“It’s very tempting because he can swing the bat, and you want to see what he can do with consistent at-bats,” Callaway said. “We got to see that earlier in the year, and it worked out really well. I’m sure he’ll get a lot of playing time moving forward.”

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