The Mets need an offensive spark these days, and they know first baseman Ike Davis could be the one to provide it. Davis is caught in an early-season funk for the second straight year, but he is slated to return to the starting lineup on Friday night as he looks to build on Thursday's key hit off the bench.
New York will play the second leg of a four-game series against the Pirates at Citi Field, trying to grab a 2-0 lead after taking a 3-2 walk-off win on Thursday. The Mets have dropped eight of 12 and scored 47 runs in their past 15 contests.
Even with Davis struggling and the Pirates starting left-hander Wandy Rodriguez, Mets manager Terry Collins plans to go with the lefty slugger after sitting him against southpaw Jeff Locke on Thursday. Davis was only 5-for-33 (.152) against lefties before blasting a pinch-hit RBI double in the eighth inning on Thursday against lefty reliever Tony Watson.
Davis is hitting .178 with four home runs, nine RBIs, a .593 OPS and 35 strikeouts through 30 games. He'll go up against a pitcher who actually has a reverse platoon split this season. Righties are hitting .198 off Rodriguez, nearly 100 points lower than lefties.
"You've got to figure out some spots," Collins said. "When you try to pick your spots, it's difficult, because I want the guy in the lineup. I want him in there because I know, when he gets it going, he's going to make a big difference. But each and every day it's still about, 'How can we win this game today?'"
The Mets know Davis can recover from his slow start because they saw it last year. He hit .158 with five homers and a .507 OPS through June 8, then .265 with 27 long balls and a .913 OPS the rest of the way.
Rodriguez (2-2, 4.02 ERA) limited the Nationals to three runs on six hits over six innings and struck out a season-high seven batters on Sunday. He surrendered seven runs in 3 2/3 innings in his previous outing against the Brewers.
The Mets will counter with Shaun Marcum (0-2, 7.20), who has given up 15 hits and six walks across 10 innings in his first three starts of the year. On Friday at Atlanta, the right-hander went a season-high 4 1/3 innings, allowing three runs on six hits and three walks.
Pirates: Martin back behind plate
• Russell Martin got the start at catcher on Thursday, his first since Saturday. Martin played third base on Sunday, and after an off-day, missed the next two games with neck stiffness.
Martin went 0-for-3 on Thursday. He entered having hit safely in 15 of his past 17 games, batting .377 with six doubles, six homers, six walks and 10 RBIs over that span.
• Left fielder Starling Marte began Thursday having hit in seven straight games and 15 of the past 16, but struck out three times and went hitless in four at-bats. He still is 17-for-28 (.607) leading off in the first inning, with three walks and two hit by pitches.
Mets: Looking for outfield answers
• With Andrew Brown getting the start in left field Thursday, the Mets have already used six players in left, five in center and four in right this season. Collectively, the club's outfielders entered the day ranked 26th in the Majors in both batting average (.217) and OPS (.680).
• Like Davis, outfielder Lucas Duda is a left-handed hitter and was out the lineup on Thursday, but could return on Friday. Duda smacked his seventh homer of the season Wednesday in his 28th game. Last year it took him 49 games to get there.
He also pinch-hit Thursday, but grounded out in the eighth inning.
• Rodriguez has a 3.32 ERA in three career starts at Citi Field and a 2.88 ERA in nine career starts against the Mets.
• Marcum started six times against the Pirates in the past two seasons with the Brewers and posted a 2.65 ERA.