"Zach pitched exceptional tonight," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. "I think it was one of his better starts of the year, for sure. His offspeed stuff was really good tonight, for sure. It was definitely encouraging for him. He pitched very well."
Davies entered Wednesday's start with the third-highest ERA (5.08) among qualified National League starters, but he was tied for second in wins (11) in the NL, thanks to leading the league in run support with 6.16 runs per game.
He didn't get much help from his offense on Wednesday, though. Gerrit Cole made sure of that. The Pirates right-hander also gave up only one run in seven innings. Davies was going to have to engage in a pitchers' duel if he wanted to earn his 12th win.
He answered the challenge. Davies ran into trouble in the first after a throwing error from shortstop Orlando Arcia placed runners on second and third with no outs. Pirates leadoff man Starling Marte scored on a sacrifice fly from Andrew McCutchen, but that was the only run Davies allowed. His curveball baffled Pirates batters, inducing two groundouts and four swinging strikes.
Davies scattered eight hits, struck out four, induced nine groundouts and only issued one walk.
"In the first inning, there wasn't too much hard contact or anything like that, so it didn't wear me for the game," Davies said. "I just had a mix of everything. Being comfortable in every count, being able to throw every pitch in every count and work against the hitters in the sense of being off-balance and mixing everything."
The Brewers finally gave Davies a lead in the eighth when Domingo Santana clobbered a home run to right field to lead off the inning. He was in line for win No. 12, but the bullpen couldn't hold it. Closer Corey Knebel allowed the tying run in the ninth and former Pirates reliever Jared Hughes gave up the winning run in the 10th.
So Davies was in no mood to celebrate his performance. The Brewers have lost four straight have watched their NL Central lead dwindle to 1 1/2 games during the skid. But Davies isn't panicking.
"We know that something like this could happen, but at the end of the day, we are still ahead," Davies said. "It's just going back to having fun, making sure everybody is light and going through the season like we have been."
Jonathan Toye is a reporter for MLB.com based in Pittsburgh.