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Cubs’ Zach Davies slowly turning the corner after rough April

Davies has allowed two earned runs in 16 1/3 innings in May.

After searching to turn around his rough start, Cubs pitcher Zach Davies is starting to find his groove again.
After searching to turn around his rough start, Cubs pitcher Zach Davies is starting to find his groove again.
Jason Miller/Getty Images

Right-hander Zach Davies often came back with the same answer after his poor outings in April: execution.

After searching to turn around his rough start, Davies is starting to find his groove again.

His 9.47 ERA in April was anything but normal, and when compared to his career 3.88 ERA, it was clear that something wasn’t right.

But by being aggressive against hitters early in counts, the results are turning in his favor.

“I think everything comes off of 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 threw 5⅓ innings of one-run ball Wednesday against the Indians after his seven scoreless innings against the Pirates in his previous start. But it’s not just the results; it’s the process.

“I thought his last outing was probably a little bit better than this one, to be honest with you,” manager David Ross said Wednesday.

“He had to work pretty hard but got some big-time ground balls there. But he was really efficient, soft contact all over the place. He only gave up one run. . . . He made some big pitches.”

When Davies is at his best, he can induce groundouts with the best of them, and aside from his first start of the season, he was far from his best. In his two starts in May, he has induced 18 groundouts. The process took some twists and turns, including a few disappointing early exits, but it forced him to recalibrate mechanically to get back to his strengths.

“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.”

The Cubs have had to rely heavily on the bullpen as their starters have failed to go deep in games. They’ve gotten better performances from the rotation recently, but Davies and the rest of the starters will have to continue to take that pressure off the relievers.

“I think that the version that we’ve seen back-to-back is much better than the early version [of Davies],” Ross said. “But I still think he [can be] better than he was [Wednesday].”

“Another step forward, where mechanically everything was right,” Davies said. “I was happy with being able to throw the changeup a lot, being able to command the ball, mix a few curveballs in there. But soft contact is where I find success, and pitching to that is where I try to be.”