Davis' big day against lefties key to win
Pelfrey holds Phillies to two runs in 7 1/3 stellar innings
NEW YORK -- There was time earlier this summer, before Ike Davis had finished proving himself for the umpteenth time, when Mets manager Jerry Manuel began platooning his left-handed rookie first baseman with career Minor Leaguer Mike Hessman. Manuel never publicly acknowledged the move; his lineup cards were the evidence. When the Mets faced a lefty, Davis did not start.
It was a curious situation because, for all Davis' inconsistencies over the first few months of his rookie season, he had proved remarkably adept at hitting left-handers. Over the first few weeks of his big league career, in fact, Davis hit them more often than he missed. His approach was not only adequate, but also uncharacteristically consistent.
Even Saturday, before Davis scratched out a critical hit off a lefty specialist -- one of his four hits in a 4-3 Mets victory over the Phillies -- he was batting .301 against same-sided pitchers.
Now he is batting .314.
"It's a secret," Davis said of his ability to hit left-handers. And he was serious. "I don't have to worry about too many things because I usually know what's coming."
Although Phillies manager Charlie Manuel went out of his way to create lefty-on-lefty matchups for Davis in the sixth and seventh innings Saturday, the rookie first baseman indeed saw what was coming on each occasion. And he hit it. First, Davis rapped out a single in the sixth inning against Antonio Bastardo, which might have proved more significant had Luis Hernandez not later lined into a double play.
In the seventh inning, though, Davis did more damage, singling off lefty J.C. Romero to provide two key insurance runs. The Mets wound up needing them both.
"Ike is a guy that, once he makes his adjustments, he's a pretty determined, confident young man," Jerry Manuel said. "And he has made some adjustments at the plate."
Due in large part to the struggles of the Mets' own lefty specialist, Pedro Feliciano, the Phillies were able to draw within one on Ryan Howard's two-run single in the eighth, putting the outcome in doubt until Hisanori Takahashi -- with the tying run on third base -- nailed down the final out for his sixth save.
Then, the high-fives and fist bumps abounded. Jose Reyes received some for his solo homer off Phillies starter Kyle Kendrick in the third. Takahashi and Davis received plenty. And Pelfrey, who gave the Mets 7 1/3 innings of two-run ball after going 0-2 with a 10.38 ERA over his previous two starts, enjoyed his share of the praise.
"Pelfrey's developed into a good pitcher," Charlie Manuel said. "I've got to give him some credit as far as how he pitched."
"I'm hopeful that this is the Pelfrey that you'll see the rest of his career," Jerry Manuel said. "There's still growth for him, and I feel confident that he can get to that next level."
Manuel could just as easily have been talking about Davis, who was batting .240 as recently as Aug. 19. Lefties weren't the problem; everyone was. In a brief synopsis, Davis was having trouble adjusting to the big league strike zone, taking far too many called third strikes on the outside corner.
By the beginning of September, though, Davis had begun to make his adjustments. He began swinging at -- and hitting -- those outside pitches. He also began drawing more walks, resulting in a .471 average with three homers and four doubles in September.
"Ike feels that he belongs at this level," Manuel said. "And when you begin to feel that way, you don't take failure very easily."
So Davis did something about it -- even if it's his little secret.
"Hitting lefties is very streaky," he said. "I think it's partly just growing up. When you're young, you don't really see that many lefties. Now in the big leagues, you see a lefty every game, so you kind of get used to them."
Davis did note that he has a little trouble ignoring fastballs out of the zone from lefties, as he did in his at-bats Saturday against Bastardo and Romero. And that may be the key. In Davis' final plate appearance, Romero threw him five straight fastballs low in the zone.
By the fifth one, he made the adjustment. And the Mets won because of it.
"The whole year I've been seeing lefties pretty well," Davis said. "I just go up there and try to get a pitch to hit."