Davies' bat, arm deliver win over Mets
Right-hander hits three-run blast, shuts down New York offense
ATLANTA -- During their youthful days in suburban Atlanta, Brian McCann and Jeff Francoeur came to the realization that the kid from the southern part of the city named Kyle Davies was capable of delivering in any big-game situation.
Their opinions certainly weren't altered on Tuesday night at Turner Field. Given the assignment of facing a potent Mets lineup, Davies went back in time and proved to be overpowering with both his arm and bat.
Davies' sixth-inning, three-run homer off Aaron Sele caused both Francoeur and McCann to rise from the bench with ecstatic leaps. But it was the eight stellar innings that he delivered in the 8-1 win over the Mets that truly allowed the Braves to smile and forget about the fact that they had entered this divisional showdown having lost six of their last eight games.
"I think every game against the Mets right now is big," said Davies, who scattered six hits and allowed one run over a season-high eight innings. "It's not huge like it would be in September. But we don't want to fall too far behind, especially playing head-to-head."
With Davies confidently locating an ever-improving changeup and Andruw Jones halting his horrific slump with a two-hit performance, the Braves won for the fifth time in seven games against the Mets. They now trail them by just 1 1/2 games in the National League East race.
"It's a good start to get things going," said Scott Thorman, whose 435-foot homer to right to begin the fourth inning further soured the evening for former Braves pitcher Jorge Sosa, who had won each of the three previous starts he'd made for the Mets this year.
Davies, who has recorded both of his two wins on the season over the course of the past three starts, began his night by issuing a leadoff walk to the ever-dangerous Jose Reyes. Three batters later, with runners on the corners and one out, he got Carlos Delgado to ground into an inning-ending double play that was started with second baseman Kelly Johnson's diving stab.
From there, Davies would retire nine of the next 10 batters that he faced. He surrendered consecutive singles to put the Mets in position to score their only run of the night in the fifth. But by that time, he had already gained a comfortable lead against Sosa, who allowed five earned runs and six hits in four innings.
McCann and Francoeur began the Braves' two-run fifth with consecutive doubles. It put the Braves in position to provide all the offense they would need. In addition, it also gave these two the ability to prevent Davies from completely owning the postgame trash-talking wars.
"[Kyle] was a way better hitter than me and Jeff put together," said McCann, who added an RBI single in the third. "He was the best player in the league. That's who we grew up watching. He was always hitting home runs."
With the count 3-1 and two outs in the sixth inning, Davies was expecting to get the take sign. When he didn't get it, he crushed Sele's fastball 415 feet over the center-field wall. It stands as the only hit he's recorded in 14 at-bats this season.
"When a pitcher gets a hit at this level, it's not luck," said Davies, whose only two hits since the beginning of last year account for his two career homers. "But it's kind of luck. If he'd have thrown me anywhere but right where I was swinging, I'd have probably missed it."
Before Tuesday's game, veteran pitcher Tim Hudson was giving Davies a hard time about the swings he'd taken in batting practice. And after the game, of course, he joined Francoeur in the postgame razzing that the 23-year-old hurler had to endure.
"Kyle could rake as a kid," Francoeur said. "But it's like anything now. I'll give it to him. He was one of the best 13-year-old baseball players I've ever seen. But he's a pitcher now. So once in a blue moon now, he connects on one."
Fortunately for the Braves, who need stability at the back end of their rotation, Davies has given them much more than this one homer over the past couple of weeks. Since issuing 11 walks while totaling just eight innings in his final two April starts, he's made four starts and issued just two walks in each of them. Instead of trying to be perfect with his location, he's trusting his stuff and allowing his defense provide him necessary support.
"It goes to show you don't have to be perfect every time to get the results that you want," Davies said. "It helps building the confidence. You have another good start, another good start and another good start, it builds. That's really important for me."
Jones' two-hit performance was certainly an important development for the Braves. After recording just five hits in his previous 36 at-bats and seeing his batting average dip to .212, he spent Monday's off-day adjusting his wide stance.
Standing more compact, he displayed much improved balance and never fell to his back knee, like he had so often done while finishing swings earlier this year.
"He looked totally different tonight to me," Braves manager Bobby Cox said.
Fortunately for the Braves, Davies looked just like the big-game pitcher Francoeur and McCann had always envisioned him to be. Take away the two starts he had while coming back from groin surgery last September, he's made five career starts against the Mets and in the process gone 4-0 with a 2.43 ERA.
"He's the guy you want taking the hill," McCann said. "We all have confidence in him. He stepped up tonight and we're all pumped up for him."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.