Why Davies in Game 2 is crucial for Padres
SAN DIEGO -- On a pitching staff overflowing with high-octane arms, Zach Davies -- with his sub-90 mph fastball and a changeup that drops off the table -- has been arguably the Padres' steadiest pitcher this season.
And boy, could the Padres use a bit of steadiness in their rotation right now.
With San Diego facing elimination in Game 2 of the National League Wild Card Series, Davies is set to take the ball on Thursday afternoon against the Cardinals at Petco Park. General manager A.J. Preller confirmed that bit of news -- after the team announced a postseason roster that does not include Mike Clevinger and Dinelson Lamet but before its 7-4 loss in Game 1.
"It's tough having two of your starters go down," Davies said. "But that's the nice thing about only having three games here, where they can get a little bit more rest and us and the team can pick them up and move onto the next round and have them join. We're going to go about our business."
In 12 starts this season, Davies posted a 2.73 ERA, pitching at least five innings and allowing three earned runs or fewer in every outing but one. That one came Saturday in a 51-pitch tuneup for his first playoff start.
Acquired from the Brewers in the deal that also landed Trent Grisham during the offseason, Davies has been a revelation for the Padres. There aren't any secrets to his success.
Davies owns one of the sport's best changeups, and he's increased his usage of the pitch significantly this season. The right-hander is throwing it more than 40 percent of the time, and he'll often use it for several pitches in a row.
"I can throw it in any count at any time to any hitter," Davies said. "There's a lot of guys out there that hit changeups really well, but that's my best pitch. So I'm not going to be afraid to throw it."
Nor should he be. Opponents are hitting just .176 against Davies' changeup with a 36 percent whiff rate. The pitch averages 79 mph, and he uses it so frequently that his low-velo sinker and cutter seem much harder to hitters.
"I know I don't throw hard in the first place, so it doesn't look hard in the beginning," Davies said. "But when you throw so many changeups, guys start sitting on it, guys start timing that pitch. An eight to 10 mph difference is pretty significant, so it makes the fastball play up a little bit. But I still make sure that the fastball's located."
With Clevinger and Lamet off the roster, a huge burden falls on Davies. The Padres’ bullpen covered 6 2/3 innings in Game 1, and the club is planning for a bullpen day in Game 3, if necessary. That means a lengthy Davies outing Thursday could have an impact beyond Game 2.
The 27-year-old right-hander made one postseason appearance for Milwaukee in 2018, but he's never made a start. Given his demeanor and his pitching style, the Padres are convicted he'll be able to handle the stage.
"He can do a lot of different things," Tingler said. "He can change speeds, he can go up, he can go down, he can move the ball around. Obviously he's got a great changeup. So just the overall package -- the pitchability and certainly having a low heart rate. In big moments, he's always the same person. He never gets too up, never gets too down."
Thursday will offer Davies his biggest moment yet. The Padres are merely asking him for more of the same.