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NYM@ATL: Davis hits a three-run shot off Hanson

ATLANTA -- Ten minutes after his second home run of the season led the Mets to a 6-1 victory over the Braves, Ike Davis sat in front of a bank of laptops in Turner Field's visiting clubhouse and analyzed his swing. He followed the path of Tommy Hanson's curveball and the rotation of his own hips, arms and hands, in his words, "just to see what I did, so I can maybe try to do it again."

Repetition is coming easier now for Davis, who as recently as Sunday bemoaned that "I need to play better." But with a home run in that game and another on Monday, Davis not only validated Dillon Gee's strong start and Jason Bay's wall-scaling catch, but also provided evidence that his own fortunes might be flipping.

"Any time I can hit a home run to put the team up, it's going to feel good," Davis said.

Throughout their recent run of success, the Mets have waited patiently for Davis to begin hitting with power. To begin hitting at all, really. The league had been attacking Davis with breaking balls and Hanson, Monday's Braves starter, was a perfect example. Davis estimated that in his previous 14 plate appearances against the right-hander, Hanson had thrown "probably three or four fastballs."

That trend continued at Turner Field, with Hanson throwing Davis four curveballs out of five pitches in his first two at-bats, then four consecutive curves to open the third. On the fifth pitch he saw in the sixth inning, with the game tied at 1, Davis was looking curve yet again. He received one, waited on it, dropped his bat head and pulled it over the right-field wall for his second home run in two days.

"It was the pitch I wanted to make and he put the barrel on it, plain and simple," Hanson said. "Sometimes you just have to tip your hat."

That three-run shot occurred only after Ruben Tejada sparked the game-winning rally by doubling with one out. Though Hanson quickly recorded a second out, he fell behind in the count on David Wright and opted to walk him intentionally, making Wright the first player in franchise history to reach base at least twice in each of his first seven games.

Given that sort of history, Hanson preferred to try his luck with Davis. He already had a battle plan.

"They've been flipping him curveballs nonstop," Bay said. "That had to feel pretty good."

Bay would know -- he is no stranger to redemption himself. After missing Sunday's game with a jammed right ring finger, the left fielder returned to the lineup Monday looking to bust out of his massive season-opening slump. He did not appear primed to do so early in the game, striking out in his first at-bat and flying out in the fourth inning

But with Gee mowing down batters in the middle innings, Jack Wilson sent a ball deep toward left field, where Bay searched out the wall behind him, timed his leap and caught it in the webbing of his glove. The catch was nearly identical to the one Bay made last September in the same spot at Turner Field, robbing Alex Gonzalez of a homer.

"It's almost like a tunnel vision," Bay said. "I'm getting close to the wall. I know it's there. The ball's coming down and I'm getting ready to jump. You kind of see everything coming together."

Perhaps the catch sparked Bay on some personal level, or perhaps it was just coincidence. Four innings later, the slumping left fielder led off the ninth with a solo homer.

The rest of Monday's game was simply a matter of filling in the blanks. Gee submitted one of the best efforts of his young career, allowing nothing more than Wilson's RBI groundout in the second inning. The Braves rallied on only one other occasion against Gee, putting their first two batters on base in the seventh.

Rather than turn to his bullpen, Mets manager Terry Collins allowed his starter to pitch with a four-run lead. And the right-hander responded with two strikeouts and a weak ground ball, whiffing Juan Francisco on an eye-level fastball to end the inning.

"That's a tough situation to be in," Gee said. "That could have turned really bad, obviously. You try to dig down."

As a result, the Mets have now beaten the Braves in four consecutive games to open a season for the second time in three years. The last time they earned five straight season-opening victories over their division rivals was in 1989.

To match that mark on Tuesday, the Mets will need continued production from the middle of their order.

The Mets have reason to believe they might receive it.

"If you're around Ike Davis, the one thing he doesn't lack is confidence," Collins said. "He believes in himself. He believes in his abilities."

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