Trust in Davies pays off as Cubs beat Pirates

Zach Davies hadn't gotten through six innings in his first six starts with the Cubs, but here he was Friday pitching into the seventh, bases loaded and nobody out.

The next sequence proved decisive. Cubs manager David Ross decided to let Davies continue, and he got out of the inning by coaxing two bouncers to the mound. The first was a force out at the plate after Davies made a barehanded grab and threw in one motion, then a 1-2-3 double play to end the inning.

It's a good thing Davies did stay on the mound, because when the Cubs finally did turn to the bullpen, the game nearly went awry. Pittsburgh scored twice in the ninth inning and left the bases loaded before Rex Brothers finally coaxed a fly out to clinch the Cubs' 3-2 victory at Wrigley Field, their fourth in a row.

"We were a little thin down in the bullpen, too today," Ross said. "Knowing that, with how well he was pitching and where the number was in his pitch count, it felt like it was his game. He had been in control the entire game. A lot of early contact, a lot of first-pitch swings, a lot of weak contact, I thought. So let him ride it."

Ross said closer Craig Kimbrel was unavailable Friday, but didn't specify a reason and does expect Kimbrel to be ready Saturday.

Needless to say, this what the Cubs wanted to see from Davies, who started the day with an 8.22 ERA.

Coming three days after Kyle Hendricks' best game of the season, it gives the pitching staff some hope for a turnaround. Even after Davies' seven scoreless innings, Cubs starting pitchers rank last in the majors with a 5.28 ERA.

"I think part coincidence and other guys going through similar stuff," Davies said about he and Hendricks getting right in the same week. "It takes one of those confidence-builder games that shows you that you can do it again, and you just continue to work on that between starts and make sure it's in the right spot for your next start."

Davies went heavy with his two-seam fastball against the Pirates and during his seven innings on the mound, he got nine outs from batters swinging at the first or second pitch.

After the game, Davies talked about how he tries to always keep the same calm demeanor on the mound and stay one step ahead of the opposing hitters.

"It's really just executing pitches and reading swings for me," he said. "Reading their approach and being able to continue to game plan off of that; making sure I don't take a pitch off, that I'm paying attention to every pitch what's going on in the batter's head.

"From a younger age, I knew that emotions don't help me. I'm a thinker. I try and execute pitches, I'm trying to focus on approaches and swings. So the emotions when you get angry or when you get too excited, that takes me away from that stuff. There's no right or wrong way to do it, but that's who I am."

On offense, the Cubs (16-16) collected 9 singles and went 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position. Joc Pederson was 3-for-4 with an RBI, while Javy Baez and David Bote collected 2 hits each.

The Cubs scored single runs in the first three innings and could have built a bigger lead. But it all worked out because Ross decided to stick with Davies in the seventh, despite his struggles so far this season.

"When you see the guy being sharp, you don't want to look at their past outings too much and let it be just this huge bias," Ross said. "The game he was pitching today was much different than the ones he's shown up to this point. Historically he's been more like the guy we saw today."

Twitter: @McGrawDHBulls

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