MILWAUKEE — Zach Davies' run of success may be surprising to most baseball observers, but Craig Counsell isn't among that group.
“He showed us this last year,” the Milwaukee Brewers manager said about Davies. “He's certainly shown that he's had this in him. What you love to see is just the consistency, a guy who you know you've got a good shot to win when he's taking the mound for you. That's what he's becoming.”
Davies takes the mound Thursday afternoon against the Arizona Diamondbacks in search of his team-leading eighth victory of the season. He has been marvelous for Milwaukee in 2016, going 7-4 with a 3.64 ERA.
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Those numbers would be even more impressive were it not for rough start. The 23-year-old right-hander took losses in each of his first three outings of the year, allowing 13 earned runs in 13 1/3 innings.
Ever since then, he has been fantastic, going 7-1 with a 2.84 ERA while holding opponents to a .217 batting average.
“I think I know what I'm capable of,” Davies said. “I know that if I'm doing the right things and executing my pitches, good things are going to happen.”
Over his past three starts, he has allowed just three earned runs in 20 innings. He threw seven scoreless innings against the Reds in Cincinnati on July 17, then held the Chicago Cubs to one run in 6 1/3 innings on Saturday.
“His first (three) starts since the break have been absolutely outstanding,” Counsell said. “He's been really good. Again, it's off of four pitches. Him and (catcher Jonathan Lucroy) are really in sync, and they've really kind of got hitters on the defense and not knowing what to look for. He's doing a nice job making pitches.”
Davies will go up against a Diamondbacks offense has sputtered all season yet broke out Wednesday night, riding two home runs from Yasmany Tomas to an 8-1 victory over the Brewers.
Left-hander Robbie Ray will get the start for Arizona. He is 1-4 with a 4.72 ERA in his past six starts. While he did strike out a career-best 10 batters his last time out, he allowed three unearned runs in the first inning and a three-run home run to Jay Bruce in the third as Arizona went on to lose 6-1 at Cincinnati on Saturday.
“It was just my fastball command,” Ray said afterward. “It's something that's always been really good for me. I worked both sides of the plate with it tonight. I was able to keep them off balance with my curveball and my slider.”
Counsell wouldn't say whether or not Brewers shortstop Jonathan Villar would be back in the starting lineup Thursday. Villar is enjoying a great season at the plate, batting .297 on the year, but while he is tied for the major league lead with 36 stolen bases, he also has made some horribly-timed mistakes on the base paths. On Wednesday, he was caught trying to swipe third after a leadoff double.
That gaffe, along with a pair of first-inning errors, led Counsell to pull Villar midgame.
“I think we've given him freedom,” Counsell said. “Base-stealers have to have freedom. Then there are some rules we put into place. We have to follow those rules.”