Chicago Cubs: Zach Davies turns in bizarre outing for win

Chicago Cubs (Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports)
Chicago Cubs (Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports) /

Zach Davies had his best outing in a Chicago Cubs uniform on Friday, but the numbers behind his start were strange, to say the least.

In the first of a three-game set against the Pittsburgh Pirates, Zach Davies gave the Chicago Cubs seven strong innings and danced out of a bases-loaded, nobody-out situation to end his day. The 28-year-old earned his second win with the northsiders, and it’s safe to say that his second month with the team is going better than the first.

“It really felt like it was his game,” David Ross said of Davies’ seventh inning escape job. “He had been in control the entire game. A lot of early contact, a lot of first-pitch swings, a lot of weak contact – just let him ride it.”

Acquired in the Yu Darvish deal over the offseason, Davies profiles closest to Kyle Hendricks – nothing overpowering, just deception and offspeed pitches to get his outs. He had his best season with the Padres in the abbreviated 2020 schedule, posting a 2.73 ERA in 12 starts.

However, in his month with the Cubs, Davies posted a 9.47 ERA in five April starts, pitching more than four innings just once.

“It really just comes down to pitch execution,” the Gilbert, AZ native, noted after his final start in April. “It’s just not there. Probably one of the worst stretches of my career. It is early, but at any point, it sucks, putting your team down in the first inning and having to claw back.”

Needless to say, Davies was happy to see the calendar flip the May.

Including Friday, he owns a robust 0.82 ERA while holding batters to a .231 average. Against the Pirates, Davies faced 26 batters, generating just one swing-and-miss for his only strikeout of the day. Added, he needed an efficient 81 pitches to get through seven innings, playing to contact and relying on the defense behind him.

“I think being able to throw into zones and places that are low-damage spots, where guys are aggressive,” the right-hander noted what worked for him. “But it does begin with execution. Execute your pitches, making sure that you read the hitters in the lineup that day, and the defense that’s out there is pretty incredible to me. I kind of enjoy turning around to see every play being made.”

Davies’ pitch usage on Friday is broken down into the following:

  • Sinker fastball: 59%
  • Changeup: 30%
  • Curveball: 9%
  • Cutter: 2%

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He generated an average exit velocity of just 83.9 MPH for all pitches, meaning there was a ton of soft contact from Pirates hitters. But for him to generate just one whiff on the day while keeping the Pirates offense off the board is pretty incredible. Weak contact is Davies’ MO, and it’s been a big reason why he’s turned around his performance in May.