Over his previous nine starts, Zach Davies had compiled a 1.86 ERA. He’d allowed just five runs over his last five outings. He had a streak of 14⅔ scoreless innings since a rocky start June 3 against the Giants.
Needless to say, it was snapped Friday night.
Davies gave up five runs in the third inning in the Cubs’ series opener against the Marlins and was charged with a career-high eight runs — all earned — by the time he left after the sixth. The Marlins won 10-2.
After Jorge Alfaro’s leadoff single in the third glanced off Davies’ hip, Jon Berti singled and Jazz Chisholm walked to load the bases. Davies walked Starling Marte for the first run, then gave up a two-out grand slam to Adam Duvall for the other four of the inning.
“The bottom of the order got a couple of hits there, and [Davies] got a little careful when he got back to the top,” manager David Ross said. “Looked like he didn’t have his best stuff or just got a little careful there. Sometimes I think you can get into that mindset of not trying to give up one, and it kind of burns you.”
Davies had pitched back-to-back quality starts this month, blanking the Padres on June 8 and the Cardinals last Sunday.
“Getting ahead seemed to be a real factor,” Ross said after Davies’ start against the Cardinals. “The changeup seems to be devastating right now. I talk a lot about fastball command, but right now [it’s] getting ahead with the fastball, knowing where that’s going when he wants to throw the fastball.”
Ross said Davies was seeing better action on his fastball Sunday than he had earlier in the season. Davies said then that he felt he was getting away with leaving his changeup up in the zone because hitters weren’t getting good swings on it.
“For me, the biggest thing is just disguising the changeup and fastball, being deceptive and seeing the way hitters approach the bat,” Davies said. “Trying to read their swing and trying to see what they’re trying to do in the bat gives me a little bit of an idea of what the next pitch is.”
But in the third inning Friday, it was the changeups that Alfaro hit for his single and Duvall smacked into the outfield seats.
“It seemed as if they were sitting offspeed pretty much the whole time,” Davies said. “Going through each hitter, you still want to pitch to your strengths. That means changeup.”
Davies cruised through the first two innings on 20 pitches but needed 24 to get out of the third. He settled in for a couple of innings after that, throwing scoreless frames in the fourth and fifth before giving up a three-run homer to Berti in the sixth. When he left, he’d given up seven hits while striking out two and walking three.
Given Kyle Hendricks’ return to form — after a rough April, eight of his last nine turns on the mound have been quality starts — and Adbert Alzolay’s expected return soon, the Cubs would have solid rotation depth with Davies pitching well. Although their offense has a wins-above-replacement near the top third in baseball and the bullpen has the second-highest strikeout rate and lowest ERA, the starters have lagged behind. Their 4.57 ERA going into Friday was the 12th-highest in baseball even before Davies’ rough night.
Joc Pederson had five home runs in June entering Friday and added his sixth and seventh in his first two at-bats, with exit velocities of 113.6 and 112.2 mph — his highest since 2019. This was Pederson’s second multi-homer game of the season; he also hit two in Pittsburgh on May 25.