NEW YORK -- Ike Davis won't say it, but his star turn on Sunday had to feel like redemption. Davis, who has been stuck in a slump for much of the season, came through with a pair of home runs, and the second one erased a late Houston comeback and gave the Mets a 2-1 win.
New York had led for much of the game, using a Davis solo shot to the second deck in right field in the fourth inning. Starter Jeremy Hefner lost his shutout bid in the ninth, and after the Mets cut down a runner at the plate, Davis brought the game to a climax.
"We needed it bad. We needed it," said manager Terry Collins. "You look up in the ninth and the guy is really pitching good. We've got one run on the board again and three hits. You're just thinking, 'Hey, somebody's got to get this going.' And that's what Ike did today. I think he got it going."
And with that message, there's an unspoken corollary: Davis didn't just get it going for his team on Sunday -- helping the Mets to enjoy their first walk-off win and their first home series win since July 5 -- he may have also gotten it going for himself, snapping back from a disastrous start.
New York's first baseman batted .185 or below in each of the season's first two months, and he began to right his ship with a strong showing in June. He's been even better in the second half -- batting .264 with 12 home runs in 41 games -- and he can see the margins of a successful season.
"Obviously, I don't want to be a .220 hitter," said Davis, batting just .223 for the season. "For having such a bad start -- and possibly the worst I've ever been on a baseball field in my entire life -- right now, I've really grinded it out. The numbers aren't amazing, but they're not totally awful. As long as I play well enough to get a job next year and keep playing baseball, that's what I'm excited about."
Indeed, there must have been times when Davis -- a former first-round Draft pick and the son of former big league reliever Ron Davis -- began to doubt his ability. The 25-year-old was batting just .201 at the All-Star break, but he's managed to stay within himself and to slowly pick it up.
And then on Sunday, he broke through. Davis, batting .296 in August, crushed a fourth-inning offering from Houston starter Lucas Harrell, sending it into the second deck in right field. He answered the ninth-inning drama with some of his own, sending a long, towering shot over the right-field fence.
"It's only going to help in the future," said Davis of his persistence. "If I ever do start a slump like that, I'll know how to get out of it a little quicker. I'll know that the world's not going to end if I had a bad week or two weeks. I'll know I can still somewhat manage to have a good year even if I start out slow."
Before the ninth inning began, Hefner seemed to be the story of the day.
New York's rookie starter had just returned from paternity leave for the birth of his second child, and he came back to the best performance of his career. Hefner held the Astros to just three hits in the first eight innings, and he only allowed the road team to put one runner in scoring position.
"A whirlwind. Not much sleep," said Hefner of the last week, highlighted by the birth of his daughter, Jaylee, on Wednesday. "But maybe I should have more kids if I keep pitching that way."
Hefner's charmed run ended in the ninth on an infield single and a stolen base by pinch-hitter Jose Altuve. Collins left his starter in for one more batter, and Marwin Gonzalez doubled to left field. Altuve came around to score on that play, ending Hefner's bid at a shutout and a complete game.
"Jeremy pitched a great game," said Collins. "That's why he deserved to go out there in the ninth inning. I know it was 1-0, and I know we had Frankie [Francisco] ready. We had all sorts of people ready. But he said he felt great, and I thought he should go out and start the inning."
Hefner watched the rest of the ninth inning from the dugout, and he bore witness to some compelling drama. Reliever Bobby Parnell came into the game with one out and Gonzalez standing on second base, and left fielder Lucas Duda came up with a game-saving play moments later.
Ben Francisco singled in front of Duda, who made a strong throw to the plate. And catcher Kelly Shoppach blocked the path, stationing himself in between the plate and the runner's outstretched arm. That play -- which resulted in Gonzalez's ejection -- kept things alive for Davis and the Mets.
"I had to stop him somehow in a game that tight," said Shoppach. "In that situation -- on his side and ours -- we know it's going to be a bang-bang play. They're going for the winning run. They're not going to take any chances by letting up or anything like that. I don't think there was any deking involved. And if there was, it wasn't going to trick anybody because he's trying to score the winning run."
The victory gave the Mets their first series win since taking three of four from San Francisco from July 30 to Aug. 2, and it gave New York its first home series win since besting Philadelphia (July 3-5). Now Collins has to hope that the adrenaline results in increased momentum.
"With the way things have gone, it's easy to say, 'Here we go again,'" he said. "But the guys on the bench -- especially when Bobby got [the Astros out in the ninth] -- when they came off, the guys on the bench said, 'Hey, let's go win this game.' It's the first time I've heard that in a while, some energy on the bench."
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.