NEW YORK -- Ike Davis would have signed up for 30 home runs at the beginning of this season. Coming off a potentially career-altering ankle injury last summer and a Valley Fever scare this spring, Davis entered the season as much an unknown quantity as anyone in baseball.
And yet even after setting a career high in homers, swatting two more in the Mets' 6-2 victory Monday over the Pirates, uncertainty remains. Trade rumors have swirled around the first baseman, dragging everything from his low batting average to his off-field habits into the conversation.
All Davis can do is continue hitting and see where that takes him.
"He's hit 30 and he had a horrible first half," manager Terry Collins said. "I think as we sit down at the end of the year, you've got to look at Ike Davis and say he's legit."
The former first-round Draft pick was more than legit against the Pirates, becoming the first Mets player to notch a 30-homer season since the team moved to Citi Field. Appropriately, Davis hit both of Monday's home runs into areas that were in play last season, before the Mets pulled in and shortened their outfield dimensions.
"If they didn't move the fences in," Davis said, "I wouldn't have hit 30."
Home run No. 29 sailed over the new left-center-field fence in the fourth inning, giving the Mets two early runs against Pirates starter Kyle McPherson. An inning later, after McPherson left the game and Jeff Karstens entered, Davis parked a three-run shot into the altered visitors' bullpen area in right-center field.
That gave Davis a career-high 30 home runs and 88 RBIs. Eighteen of the first baseman's homers have come since the All-Star break, second most in the National League.
"It's a cool milestone, I guess," he said. "It's something you can always tell your kids, 'I hit 30 home runs in the big leagues.' But if I would have hit 29 this year, I still would have been happy with the power numbers for sure."
Davis' home runs provided more than enough offense for Mets starter Jenrry Mejia, who rebounded from a rocky outing in Milwaukee more than a week ago to fire five scoreless innings against the Pirates. Effective but inefficient while throwing 51 pitches over his first two innings, Mejia settled down to retire seven of the final eight batters he faced in earning his first big league victory.
"I felt a lot better tonight," Mejia said. "My mechanics felt really good tonight."
"I hope he realizes his stuff's good enough if it's around the plate," Collins said. "I thought it was a huge step forward for him."
Like Davis, Mejia still has plenty of questions surrounding him. Also like Davis, he appears to be in the process of answering them. After Mejia's strong summer as a starting pitcher at Triple-A Buffalo, the Mets gave him a chance to start for the big club in September. Collins indicated that continued success may mean a longer-term role as a starter, something that was not always a given for him.
But the star of Monday's game was still Davis, whose .227 season batting average and .304 on-base percentage have obscured his high levels of production over the past three months. Only two players in baseball have hit more home runs than Davis since June 9, and only seven have recorded more RBIs.
Even so, rumors have swirled regarding Davis' long-term future with the club. Just last week, a report surfaced indicating that the club was displeased with his nightlife habits away from the ballpark, as well as his apparent resistance to coaching advice. Though both Davis and Collins downplayed the report, it nonetheless became the latest stone to cross the first baseman's path during a rocky 16-month stretch.
First, there was the ankle injury that sidetracked his career. Then there was the Valley Fever scare this spring. Then the massive slump, which prompted the Mets to consider sending him to the Minors. Then the trade rumors and allegations.
But for the past three months, Davis has been hitting, and hitting with aplomb, which tends to heal most wounds.
"I applaud that he didn't give up, that he stuck with his plan, and I truly believe that the fact that we stuck with him gave him some confidence and let him get it going," Collins said. "He's told me several times, 'You'll never see that first half again from me.' And if that's the case ... you've got huge numbers coming."