NEW YORK -- It’s a common saying, that success comes at the nexus where hard work meets opportunity. It also provides an apt distillation of how J.D. Davis seized control of a tie game in the bottom of the 10th inning, hitting a walk-off single to deep left field to lead the Mets to a come-from-behind 4-3 win over the Indians on Wednesday night at Citi Field.
In a tough at-bat against Cleveland closer Brad Hand, Davis found himself in an early 0-2 count.
“That slider’s devastating,” Davis said. “Once you start getting a little pull-happy like I was doing, you start spinning off and you start rolling over to [the left side of the infield]. So I just got in my two-strike approach and told myself, ‘If I’m gonna go down looking, I’m gonna go down on that fastball in, just because of what it’s doing. It’s setting me up. Because if I swing at that, I’m gonna chase that slider.’
“So I just got ready and once I got to 3-2, it’s that old adage -- stick with what got you there. So I stuck with my two-strike approach, fouled some tough pitches off, and ended up getting one that was a little more middle over the plate.”
On the ninth pitch of the at-bat, Hand threw a slider right in the heart of the strike zone. Davis didn’t miss it.
“He’s prepared. That’s the bottom line,” said manager Mickey Callaway. “I’m sure J.D. did his homework and said, ‘You know what? This guy’s gonna live and die by his slider because it’s his best pitch, so once he gets one out over the plate instead of getting one in, I’m gonna hammer it’ -- and he did.”
Hit at an exit velocity of 107.7 mph, Davis left no doubt as he drove the ball over the head of Indians left fielder Tyler Naquin, causing the Citi Field crowd of 28,349 to erupt over his first career walk-off, which ensured that the Mets would earn a series victory over the Indians.
Davis’s heroics capped off another memorable rally at Citi Field that began with Amed Rosario’s leadoff double in the 10th. After a sac bunt from Joe Panik and an intentional walk to Pete Alonso, Rosario scored and tied the game on a fielder’s choice from Michael Conforto that could have potentially been a game-ending double play, only Hand forgot to cover first base. The Mets had fallen behind 3-2 in the top of the 10th when Carlos Santana hit a solo homer off of Luis Avilan.
Preparation is the word his manager and teammates kept coming back to in order to describe how Davis, who joined New York in a trade from the Astros in the offseason, successfully played his way into a starting role in his first significant stint in the Majors.
“It was very evident from the get-go,” Callaway said. “You could tell that this guy is in the video room, he’s digging deep in all the numbers and he’s speaking up in the hitters’ meeting. He’s probably one of the most vocal guys in that meeting because he’s studied these guys so much. He’s almost like having a third hitting coach in there.
“It’s about preparation for him. That breeds his confidence and that’s what allows him to go up to any pitcher and stand in there and feel like he’s gonna get the job done. And at Citi Field, he does it almost half the time.”
To Callaway’s point, Davis extended his streak of safely reaching base to 21 consecutive home games with his RBI single. On the season, he’s hitting .383/.445/.711 with 10 homers, 23 RBIs and a 1.156 OPS in 49 games at Citi Field.
But Davis’ ability to rise to the occasion precisely when his team needs him the most is what has set him apart. He now has 16 go-ahead or game-tying RBIs this year alone, and his teammates have certainly taken notice.
“Everyone has their own method of madness when it comes to hitting, but he’s done a tremendous job for us,” said Alonso. “He’s an incredible worker, he’s always locked in, and whatever opportunities he gets, he always stays the same. He’s the same J.D., no matter what, because he’s so even-keeled, he’s able to come up clutch in big spots like he has this year.”
Wednesday was simply the latest example of Davis' clutch abilities, in what has become a breakout campaign for the 26-year-old, who will certainly be relied upon heavily down the stretch for the Mets. Davis has already proven that he’s up to the task.