With the game on the line in a ballpark ready to rock and a playoff spot within reach, J.D. Davis had a plan, because, well, he always has a plan.
This plan resulted in a 4-3 Mets win over the Indians on Davis’ walk-off single lined to left in the 10th inning Wednesday night.
With a fifth victory in six games and a second in a row against Cleveland, the Mets clinched their 10th series win in 12 since the All-Star break. They are 1 1⁄2 games back of the last National League wild-card spot. Sta
“This is a special team. We knew it from the beginning of spring training,” said Davis, breathless and basking in the Gatorade-soaked glory of his first career walk-off. “It was just a matter of time till we hit on all cylinders, where our pitching, bullpen, hitting, timely hitting just all came together.”
Davis, known by teammates and coaches as meticulously prepared, fell behind Cleveland closer Brad Hand 0-and-2. Then he came back for a full count, then fouled off three consecutive pitches — two of them sliders, Hand’s best option, and two of them hard but foul down the leftfield line.
On the ninth pitch of the at-bat, Davis lined a single to left. Michael Conforto scored easily.
“Any other hitter that probably wasn’t as prepared would’ve been thinking, 'oh, this guy is going to throw me a fastball at one point,'" manager Mickey Callaway said. “I’m sure J.D. did his homework and said, 'you know what, this guy is going to live and die by his slider because it’s his best pitch. Once he gets one out over the plate and doesn’t get one in, I’m going to hammer it.’ And he did.”
That concluded a wild 10th. Carlos Santana hit a go-ahead homer in the top of the inning, the first run allowed by Luis Avilan since he came off the injured list in early July. But the Mets tied it on Conforto’s RBI groundout to first. Santana threw to second to start a potential game-ending double play, but neither Hand nor any other Indian covered first base.
“It was a double-play ball,” Amed Rosario, who scored on the play, said through an interpreter. “They could’ve ended the game right there.”
Instead, it created an opportunity for Davis, who is hitting .310 with an .888 OPS in a breakout year, his first with the Mets after being acquired from the Astros in January.
From the first day of the regular season, Callaway said, Davis’ homework habits were obvious. In an era of baseball defined by data, Davis studies at least as much as any other Mets hitter.
Every night before bed, he watches video on his iPad of the starting pitcher he’ll see the next day, Davis said recently. For a normal 7 p.m. start, Davis often gets to the ballpark by noon, according to quality control coach Luis Rojas. At the start of every series, the Mets give hitters a packet of information about the other team’s pitchers, and early on Davis proved eager enough to see that information that Rojas has taken to delivering it to Davis’ locker, so it is there, ready for him, when he arrives.
In the Mets’ hitting meetings — run by coaches — Davis is the most vocal player.
“It’s almost like having a third hitting coach in there because he does prepare so well,” Callaway said.
Said Rojas: “It’s definitely another level compared to the rest of the guys.”
And Davis: “I go up to the plate knowing what he’s going to do.”
This walk-off solidified, too, the Mets’ new celebration under such circumstances: jersey-ripping. It began earlier this month, when Pete Alonso in the spur of the moment grabbed Conforto’s uniform top. This time, as Davis’ teammates chased him into shallow centerfield, Alonso again went straight for the jersey.
“If you hit a walk-off,” Alonso said, “your shirt is coming off.”