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Davies keeps Dodgers in check, seals series win

Brewers right-hander strikes out six in seven innings, lowers ERA to 1.53
@AdamMcCalvy
April 14, 2019

LOS ANGELES -- Raise your hand if you had Zach Davies as the stalwart of the Brewers’ starting staff after three full turns of the rotation. Considering his 2018 season was ruined by shoulder and back injuries, Davies’ performance out of the gate qualifies as something of a surprise for

LOS ANGELES -- Raise your hand if you had Zach Davies as the stalwart of the Brewers’ starting staff after three full turns of the rotation.

Considering his 2018 season was ruined by shoulder and back injuries, Davies’ performance out of the gate qualifies as something of a surprise for the Brewers, who sealed a series win over the Dodgers with Saturday’s 4-1 victory behind Davies’ seven innings at Dodger Stadium.

Timely, too, since the three youngsters in Milwaukee’s rotation have been taking some lumps.

“As starters, we know we need to get deeper into games,” said Davies. “Everybody is going to tell you that. Everybody knows that is their job.”

That was doubly important for the Brewers on Saturday because bullpen ace Josh Hader had thrown 38 pitches the night before and was down for the night. So manager Craig Counsell was holding his breath in the first inning, when the very first Dodgers hitter, A.J. Pollock, smacked a comebacker that struck Davies on the pinky and ring fingers of this throwing hand. Davies’ fingers went numb, but he continued.

“He said it was actually affecting his changeup a little bit at times,” said Counsell. “Maybe we should hope for that a little bit, because it was pretty good.”

Davies’ ERA after three starts is 1.53, the best mark on the team among pitchers not named Hader. The figure came down Saturday after seven innings of one-run ball against a potent Dodgers offense that leads the NL in runs per game and home runs per game, and leads the Major Leagues in OPS, but will have to beat Milwaukee’s Opening Day starter, Jhoulys Chacin, in Sunday’s series finale to avoid a sweep.

The only blemish on Davies’ line -- seven innings, eight hits, no walks, six strikeouts -- was produced by Dodgers slugger Cody Bellinger, who connected for his NL-leading ninth home run with the bases empty in the fourth inning.

Davies otherwise silenced the Dodgers, inducing three inning-ending double plays including a particularly pretty 3-6-3 that began and with first baseman Jesus Aguilar in the fifth inning.

"This guy can pitch,” said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts of Davies. “If he's executing like that, he's a tough at-bat. He doesn't walk many guys, puts the ball on the ground, works at a good tempo. It's a little easier because he doesn't throw 97, 98 mph. But this guy is a quality starter. We didn't square many balls up, to be honest."

It’s quite a bounceback for a pitcher who had to back his way into the National League Championship Series when the Brewers and Dodgers last met at Chavez Ravine. Left off of the NL Division Series roster in the wake of a regular season limited to 13 Major League starts, Davies was added to the NLCS only after Gio Gonzalez injured an ankle in Game 4. Davies pitched one scoreless inning.

Now he’s the early-season leader of a staff rounded out by Chacin and three young right-handers -- Corbin Burnes, Freddy Peralta and Brandon Woodruff -- who have ERAs of 6.00 and up after three full cycles of the starting rotation.

At minimum, the Brewers need the two relative veterans of the rotation to be steady.

“This was more than a steady performance. This was Zach at his best,” Counsell said.

Davies’ offense came via solo home runs from Mike Moustakas and Orlando Arcia and a bases-loaded, two-run single in the fifth inning for slumping third baseman Travis Shaw, who was hitless in his last 12 at-bats and had one hit in his last 23 at-bats, including a strikeout with the bases loaded in the third inning. In the fifth, he lined a 103.8 mph (according to Statcast) line off first baseman Max Muncy’s glove for a 4-1 lead that gave Davies and reliever Junior Guerra some additional room to work. Guerra went six up, six down for his first Major League save.

“It’s kind of a weight off my shoulders,” said Shaw. “It’s only been a few games, but it feels like it’s been longer than that. It’s nice to see something fall and to do something positive.”

Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram and like him on Facebook.