It’s a simple concept for Chicago Cubs right hander Zach Davies.
Consistently inducing soft contact with his off-speed pitches makes it harder for opposing hitters to rattle him.
After pitching to a 9.47 ERA in five April starts covering 19 innings, Davies enters Tuesday’s home start against the Washington Nationals with a 1.10 ERA in three starts and 16 1/3 innings in May.
“I think everything comes off his sinker command,” Cubs pitching coach Tommy Hottovy said. “For the majority of pitchers, the off-speed stuff plays when you’re commanding the fastball. Mechanically, everything syncs up to where you can execute that pitch.”
Davies (2-2, 5.60 ERA) commanded his sinker and the rest of his repertoire during his start Wednesday at Cleveland, limiting the Indians to one run on six hits in 5 1/3 innings.
Five days before that, he pitched seven shutout innings against Pittsburgh to earn his first victory since April 4. The key? Harnessing his execution and attacking mentality.
“I think [being aggressive] has been pretty successful,” Davies said. “For me, it really starts with mechanics, allowing me to throw the ball where I want to, command the ball where I want to and get ahead of guys, being able to work off that while working through the kinks mechanically.
“And after that, it’s game-planning. Finding hitters’ weaknesses, finding spots where I can limit hard contact. … Just going out there with confidence, throwing pitches over the plate, getting weak contact and letting the defense play has been something that I continue to pitch toward and be confident in.”
In four career starts against the Nationals, Davies is 3-0 with a 2.39 ERA, with 23 strikeouts in 26 1/3 innings.
His scheduled opponent Tuesday has even more experience — as well as comparable success — against the Cubs. Nationals left-hander Patrick Corbin (2-3, 6.19 ERA) is 5-2 with a 3.80 ERA in eight career appearances against Chicago, including seven starts.
Corbin will be making his first start since his son, Weston, was born Friday. He has won two of his past three starts and is coming off Thursday’s victory against Philadelphia, when he allowed one run over seven innings with a season-high nine strikeouts.
The Cubs won 7-3 Monday in the opener of the four-game series. The top four hitters in the Nationals lineup had five of the team’s six hits.
Washington shortstop Trea Turner went 1-for-3 with a solo home run, and has notched at least one hit in nine of his past 10 games. After pivoting around the lineup at times in the first few weeks of the season, Turner again has settled in at leadoff.
“I think Trea has done really well leading off for us and getting us going,” Nationals manager Dave Martinez said. “He’s come up in big moments, too. Later in the games where we need a base hit, we need him to get on, and he’s done that for us.”
Chicago hit three home runs Monday. Jason Heyward, Willson Contreras and Javier Baez connected against former teammate Jon Lester. Kyle Schwarber, another former Cubs player, also homered for the Nationals.
–Field Level Media