MILWAUKEE -- Zach Davies expected to be "refreshed" by his long-awaited return to a Major League mound, and he sure looked that way while dealing five strong innings in a duel with the Cubs' Cole Hamels at Miller Park in the Brewers' 4-3 walk-off win on Monday afternoon.
Appearing unaffected by the stiff back that added more than a month to his comeback from a right shoulder injury, Davies scattered four singles while striking out seven on 84 pitches in his first big league start since May 29.
"Oh, man, that's a great outing," said Brewers manager Craig Counsell. "It was really the perfect atmosphere for him to come back. He tunnels in, he doesn't let a lot of things get in his way, and I thought he was outstanding."
The only Cubs run against Davies scored in the top of the first inning, when Javier Baez blooped a single over the outstretched glove of first baseman Jesus Aguilar, then scored all the way from first base on Anthony Rizzo's single after center fielder Lorenzo Cain bobbled the baseball.
The Brewers appeared to have a chance at home plate on the play, but second baseman Jonathan Schoop's relay throw was off-target. Baez scored for a 1-0 lead that stood for the remainder of Davies' time on the mound.
"Being able to get out of it, just minimize the damage to that [was important]," Davies said. "They were ready, and they were attacking me. I knew that pitches early in the count had to be a little bit better and not so much over the plate. So it kind of set my game plan the rest of the game."
He added, "I was ready. I was healthy, and I knew it. I knew where my stuff was at, I knew my body was healthy."
• Baez saluted Davies after striking out
Davies got one notable defensive assist in the fifth inning, when Ryan Braun made a diving catch to take a hit away from Daniel Murphy. That gem was sandwiched between Davies' sixth and seventh strikeouts in a 1-2-3 inning that capped Davies' return to action.
The Brewers took a 2-1 lead in the bottom of that inning, then rallied again in the eighth to tie the game before winning in the ninth on Christian Yelich's fielder's choice.
The Brewers pulled within four games of the Cubs in the National League Central, with another three-game series scheduled next week at Wrigley Field. Davies isn't sure about his next assignment; with expanded rosters and Giovany Gonzalez and Brandon Woodruff in the fold, the Brewers might opt to hold Davies to face the Cubs next week. With Monday's effort, he has a 3.52 ERA in six starts against Chicago.
• No start scheduled, but Gio available out of 'pen
"It shows that we're here to fight for every inning, every out, every at-bat," Davies said. "I think it just shows that we're ready for them."