|ESPN.com: BlogsColumns||[Print without images]|
NEW YORK -- A year ago on this date -- May 7, 2009 -- Ike Davis was playing first base and batting cleanup for the Class A St. Lucie Mets. He went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts in a 1-0 loss to the Fort Myers Miracle.
A year ago on this date, Rod Barajas was catching and batting eighth for the Toronto Blue Jays. He went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts in a 6-1 loss to the Los Angeles Angels.
This May 7 was a very different one, for both of them. Davis' two homers to right and center, and Barajas' pair of blasts to left -- the second a walk-off number in the bottom of the ninth -- propelled the New York Mets to a 6-4 victory over the San Francisco Giants.
The win was an important one for the Mets. The good vibes from their 9-1 homestand had vanished after a 2-4 road trip in which they suffered two straight beatdowns in Philly and two extra-inning heartbreakers in Cincy.
|The Mets are 12-5 since calling up first baseman Ike Davis.|
Much of the talk surrounding the Mets before this game centered on the lack of offensive production by the current No. 3 and No. 4 hitters, Jose Reyes and Jason Bay. Both those players made strides Friday night -- Reyes had two singles, and Bay had an RBI double.
But the night's heroes -- along with starting pitcher Mike Pelfrey, who tossed an impressive 7 1/3 innings, four days removed from having an MRI on his throwing arm -- were the Mets' No. 7 and No. 8 hitters, of all people.
Barajas was basically an afterthought at the beginning of the year -- a backup plan after the Mets failed to acquire Giants catcher Bengie Molina, who turned down more money to stay in San Francisco.
Barajas signed a one-year deal worth $500,000 on Feb. 24, six days after the Mets' pitchers and catchers reported to spring training. In his first 23 games with the team, he has already hit nine home runs, including Friday night's dramatic winner.
"[Barajas] has been quite an acquisition. I mean, he's been unbelievable," Mets manager Jerry Manuel said after the game. "He seems to rise to that occasion. I recollect the first time talking to him, he mentioned how he liked the clutch. It's been impressive."
To top it all off, Barajas could barely swing a bat in the ninth inning, after being hit on the left hand by an Eli Whiteside swing in the seventh inning. Barajas couldn't even take a practice cut in the on-deck circle in the ninth, and had to have X-rays on his left index finger after the game (the X-rays came back negative).
"I went up there and I told myself I probably got one good swing -- once I take that swing my finger's gonna go numb," Barajas said. "So I was looking for that slider. The first one [Sergio Romo] threw it a little bit inside, the next swing he left it over the middle of the plate. ... Like I said, I had one swing and I had to take advantage of it, and I got it."
Davis wasn't even on the major league roster when the Mets broke camp this spring. He was promoted on April 19, and has hit .314 over his first 16 games. The Mets expected him to add some power to their lineup, but he had hit only one home run -- that is, until he hit two Friday night. And those two long balls came against Jonathan Sanchez, a tough left-hander who hadn't given up a hit to a lefty hitter all season long, let alone a home run.
"What a tremendous game by Ike, to face one of the toughest lefties in the National League, and be able to hit two home runs," Manuel said. "To respond in that manner against that type of pitcher is pretty impressive for a young player."
And let's not forget the brilliant defensive play Davis made in the top of the ninth inning, leaning over the railing of the Mets' dugout to reel in a foul ball and end the inning, and almost falling on his head in the process.
"I'm gonna try to catch any ball I can," the 6-foot-4 Davis said. "I've got long arms, I guess."
"He's a special kind of kid," Barajas said of Davis. "There's no arrogance to him; he comes to the field, he has fun, he's one of the guys.
"Everybody knows how big of a prospect he is and what his potential can be, but he's down to earth, doesn't have a big head. He knows that you gotta come out here, you gotta prove to a lot of people that you can play at this level. ... Those are the type of rookies that you love to have on your team."
But Barajas deserves just as many accolades right now, if not more. He's handling a pitching staff that's been the strength of the Mets' team so far this season. And he's come up big at the plate, as well.
Barajas said he's not trying to prove anything after being a late addition to the team.
"Right now, I'm just trying to win, trying to enjoy myself, help this team out and just have fun," Barajas said. "I'm not trying to make a statement to anybody [else] right now. I'm trying to make a statement to my team, saying, 'Hey, you know what? This is a good teammate. He's gonna help us out, he's gonna be behind us 100 percent and he's excited to come to the field every day.'"
The Mets are 16-13, two games behind the first-place Phillies. They still have problems. They still need Reyes and Bay to produce. They need Carlos Beltran to come back, and they probably also need another quality starting pitcher.
But what they have is a 34-year-old journeyman catcher and a 23-year-old rookie first baseman who are both making contributions far beyond what the team could have expected through 29 games.
Let's be honest, neither one of them was supposed to be here right now.
And, let's be honest: Where would the Mets be without them?
Kieran Darcy is a staff writer for ESPNNewYork.com. He can be reached at email@example.com. You can also follow him on Twitter.
More from ESPNNewYork.com »