(670 The Score) For Cubs right-hander Zach Davies, it had been a frustrating first five weeks of his Chicago tenure.
After a solid debut with his new team back on April 4, Davies followed with a rough five-start stretch, failing to go more than four innings in any outing as his ERA ballooned to as high as 9.47. On Friday afternoon, Davies looked more like the pitcher he has always been, throwing seven scoreless innings and earning the win in the Cubs’ 3-2 victory against the Pirates at Wrigley Field.
Davies had his two-seam fastball working for him as he recorded a career-high 14 groundball outs.
“That helps you set up and navigate things each at-bat,” Davies said. “It gives you some information as to what the hitter is trying to do. You are able to throw with a sense of confidence and commanding the zone for yourself.”
A sinkerball specialist, Davies had lost depth on that type of fastball in recent starts while struggling with his release point. He had those problems fixed as he took the mound Friday.
“You could see how sharp he was to the corners,” Cubs manager David Ross said. “He was aggressive early and ahead on the count. He was getting groundballs early.”
Recently, Davies has been working with pitching coach Tommy Hottovy on his balance and the proper leg lift in his delivery.
“You are not dealing with any big secrets when you are trying to get back to doing some mechanical things right,” Davies said. “With mechanics, it's about any extra movement that can throw you out of whack. I think that takes time, and I feel I am getting back to pitching the way I have been trying – to keep the ball on the ground if possible.”
Getting length out of their starting pitchers has been a major issue for the Cubs this season. Davies’ outing Friday marked just the second time a Cubs pitcher threw seven innings in the first 32 games. Right-hander Kyle Hendricks had the other such outing in a win against the Dodgers on Tuesday.
"We have done that for a few years now and we must just back on track,” Davies said. "Mechanically, I have gotten back to doing some things, and I know Kyle has had some bullpens where he has done the same thing. It can take just one of these confidence-building games that shows you can do it again. You just continue to work on those things between starts.”
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.