NEW YORK -- Ike Davis' day did not truly begin until around the fifth inning Saturday, hours after he first arrived at Citi Field. Formerly a high school star, college phenom and rookie sensation, Davis admittedly needed to adjust to the schedule of a part-time player. He began running in the fifth inning. In the seventh, he took some swings.
By the ninth, it became clear that Davis' services would be needed. The Mets had just won their first video-replay challenge, the bases were loaded with New York down by one run and Davis' opportunity lay before him.
He crushed his chance well over the right-field fence. Delivering a pinch-hit, walk-off grand slam, Davis -- with one small foot tap and one violent swing -- gave the Mets a 6-3 victory that forced them to rethink naming Lucas Duda their first-base starter.
"It certainly is a morale shock a little bit that you're not wanted, nobody likes you," manager Terry Collins said of what might have been swimming through Davis' mind. "To be on that bench and be ready to come up in a clutch situation, it takes concentration. And he was ready to do it."
A year ago, under identical circumstances, his opportunity might never have surfaced. Entering the ninth inning, the Mets found life when Juan Lagares drew a leadoff walk against J.J. Hoover, a sub for injured closer Aroldis Chapman. The next batter, Anthony Recker, laid down a hard bunt that first baseman Joey Votto fielded and fired toward second base.
Foot met base and ball met glove, though second-base umpire James Hoye confused the order, calling Lagares out. That brought Collins screaming out of the dugout, asking for a replay challenge. Two minutes and 14 seconds later, umpires overturned the call, giving the Mets two men on and no outs instead of a man on first and one out.
Next up was Ruben Tejada, who twice fouled off bunt attempts only to walk to load the bases. For Davis. For the first baseman who, despite outperforming Duda over the first three games of the regular season, during Spring Training and (more or less) throughout his career, was told Friday that he would be a bench player for the foreseeable future.
If Davis was still bristling from the "morale shock" of that decision, it lasted only one pitch -- a high fastball that he chastised himself for ignoring. Hoover's next offering was a thigh-high curve, which Davis recognized immediately and parked off the facing of the Pepsi Porch in right. His teammates rushed out of the dugout to greet him at home plate, as the Reds skulked back into their own clubhouse.
"Any time you get left on the field," Votto said, "it's never ideal."
On that side of the ballpark, Votto, Reds manager Bryan Price and others uttered the same types of regrets that the Mets were thinking only moments earlier. Despite Dillon Gee's strong start and Curtis Granderson's first home run as a Met -- a two-run shot that temporarily gave his team a lead in the sixth -- Collins' club was in danger of its fourth loss in five games heading into the ninth. Trying to complete eight innings, Gee made a critical mistake when he left a ball up in the zone for Brandon Phillips, who crushed a two-run homer to give Cincinnati a 3-2 lead.
But Scott Rice and Carlos Torres kept the deficit at one, paving the way for Lagares' batting eye, Collins' challenge and Davis' power to transform the game.
"That's basically going to be my role, so it's going to be every game," Davis said. "I'm obviously not going to hit a home run every time, but I've got to be ready for those big at-bats."
Well, sort of. Collins had planned all along to start Davis over Duda in Sunday's series finale, and now Davis will play with momentum in his corner. If Davis enjoys another strong game, perhaps even pops another homer, it's not outlandish to think he could start again Tuesday -- despite Duda's two home runs in Friday night's win against the Reds. Collins has demonstrated his share of fickleness over similar issues in the past.
For now, though, Davis cannot speculate. It does him no good. All he can do is focus on whatever role the Mets decide to give him, and try to capitalize in the same way he did Saturday.
"I was just happy," Davis said. "It feels good just to hit a ball on the barrel, come through in the clutch and get a 'W' for the team."