Cubs

What's the issue with Wade Davis right now?

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USA TODAY

What's the issue with Wade Davis right now?

Wade Davis is still having a perfect season.

Let's get that out of the way right now. 

The Cubs closer is 23-for-23 in save chances and despite some hiccups lately, has always found a way to get the job done.

But he's also shown he's mortal, giving up eight runs over his last 16.2 innings dating back to June 11. In that time, Davis is also allowing nearly two baserunners an inning on average, surrendering 18 hits and an alarming 12 walks.

Davis suffered the loss Thursday in The Willson Contreras Game when he gave up a pair of homers to Paul Goldschmidt and J.D. Martinez in the top of the ninth. Two days later, Davis walked a pair of batters before striking out Bryce Harper on his 30th pitch to end the game and halting a three-game losing streak.

Cubs manager Joe Maddon believes a 30-minute rain delay might've contributed to Davis' problem Thursday, when he gave up two homers in a relief outing for the first time in his career.

But even apart from that outing, Davis has looked off over the past couple months after boasting an 0.84 ERA and 0.75 WHIP in his first 22 appearances.

"I just think he's trying to be too fine early in the count," Maddon said. "He can throw a strike whenever he wants to. I've always felt that way about him. And you can see it. His stuff's the same.

"He's just a little bit off with the relief point. You can constantly see him trying to figure out at the end of his delivery. But I've always seen that. This is nothing new for me with him. I have a lot of faith in him."

Maddon has known Davis since the lanky right-hander came into the league in 2009 as a starting pitcher with the Tampa Bay Rays. Maddon thinks maybe Davis is reverting back to that starter's mentality and trying to be too perfect early, subsequently falling behind 1-0 or 2-0 consistently.

Davis, however, scoffed at that notion.

"No. Not even close. There's never any time where I'm trying to be too fine with anything," Davis said. "Sometimes you just go through slumps, I guess.

"I'm never trying to be too fine. I'm always trying to pitch aggressively in the zone. Sometimes it just doesn't go there."

Davis is a cerebral guy who is always thinking and adapting along with the game. He compared his issues right now with a hitter going through a slump at the plate — just the natural ebb and flow of baseball.

"Just different timing," he said. "Earlier in the year, my stuff wasn't as good, but my timing was really good. Now, my arm feels strong and better, but my timing is off from time to time."

Davis said he's had this kind of issue every year of his career, but also typically gets stronger as the season goes along and his arm feels better now than it did even in April and May when he had a 0.00 ERA.

But all along, whether he's going good or bad, Davis is the exact same guy. Same temperment, same body language, same mood. 

"He's mellow, man," Maddon said. "That's who he is. You talk to him as he's coming off the field after the game's over and he's barely breathing. That's just who he is.

"He's a very calm player. He's always been that guy from spring trainings to the middle of the season to shooting a black bear in Toronto."

That calm demeanor has helped Davis become one of the elite closers in the game. Even if the tying run is 90 feet way, he has the same level of confidence in his stuff and abilities.

He also doesn't pump his fist after big outs or nailing down clutch saves. He maintains an even keel in the middle of the road.

"I try to," he said. "As soon as you think you're good, then you get your ass kicked. And when you're going bad, you're not nearly as bad as you think you are.

"You wanna be in your own shoes, stay in your own lane."

A Hobbled Hero: Baez, Cubs keep finding wild ways to win

A Hobbled Hero: Baez, Cubs keep finding wild ways to win

Javy Baez has only seen one pitch in the Cubs-Phillies series, but that's all he needs to make a major impact.

"El Mago" notched his first walk-off RBI since May 8, 2016 in the bottom of the ninth inning Tuesday night, lacing the only pitch he saw from Juan Nicasio down the right-field line. Baez had missed the entire series to that point due to a heel injury he suffered Sunday in Washington D.C. and actually underwent an MRI before Tuesday's game to make sure there was no other damage.

Baez's single put the finishing touches on the Cubs' first win this season when trailing after eight innings. They now lead the majors with five walk-off victories.

After another blown lead by the bullpen (the third in the last week), the Cubs entered the bottom of the ninth down 2-1, but Kris Bryant led off with a walk and then Anthony Rizzo doubled. After a Willson Contreras flyout, Jason Heyward was intentionally walked and then Albert Almora Jr. hit a tapper in front of home plate that Bryant just barely beat out at home to tie the game.

Then came Baez, as Joe Maddon opted to go to the hobbled star in place of Daniel Descalso, who was 0-for-4 on the evening to that point.

Prior to the ninth inning, Maddon wasn't sure if Baez would even be available to pinch hit in the game, but trainer P.J. Mainville taped up Javy's foot/ankle at the start of the inning and gave the Cubs skipper the all-clear.

"Just give PJ some credit on the tape job," Maddon joked. "This is right out of the Lombardi era kind of stuff. Tape and aspirin — go ahead and play. That's what everybody's football coach said."

If Baez hadn't delivered the walk-off hit and the Cubs wound up in extra innings, Maddon said he didn't know if Baez would be able to even play the field on his injured heel and the only player left on the bench was backup catcher Victor Caratini.

"In moments like that, you can only think it so far," Maddon said. "And then at some point, you gotta throw it at the wall and see what happens."

Maddon doesn't know if Baez will be able to play Wednesday night, but plans to make two lineups and then check with the shortstop to see about his status when he arrives at the field.

Baez's Cubs teammates are no longer surprised at the ridiculous things he does or how easy he makes some very difficult tasks look. Bryant joked he was actually upset Baez didn't hit it over the fence for a walk-off grand slam.

"I don't even know what's going on with him half the time anyway," Bryant said. "It's like, 'oh, Javy's pinch-hitting. And then I was debating like, 'don't swing at the first pitch," but I was like, 'no, it's Javy.' 

"It was awesome. He just like goes up there and swings the bat. If he didn't have to run to first base, he wouldn't. It's just like, 'I'm so good, I'm just gonna get this hit and then we're gonna go home.'"

However awe-inspiring Baez's Kirk Gibson impression was, the only reason the Cubs were even in the spot to win the game at that moment was because of the hustle and aggressive baserunning from Bryant. 

His game-tying run on Almora's tapper in front of the plate was huge, but his first trip around the bases was even more impressive. 

With Bryant on second base and Rizzo on first in the first inning, both runners were off on the full-count pitch to Contreras, who hit a routine grounder to Phillies shortstop Jean Segura. As Segura made the throw to first to retire Contreras, Bryant never hesitated around third base and scored on some heads-up, aggressive baserunning that looked like a page right out of the El Mago Playbook.

Bryant said as he was running, he thought about what it's like to play the left side of the infield on such a routine play and felt like he could catch the Phillies by surprise.

"I saw [third base coach Brian Butterfield] holding me up, too, and I just kept going," Bryant said. "I almost felt like I had eyes in the back of my head. It was kind of like one of those experiences that it's hard to explain, but I just kept going."

That run was all Jose Quintana and the Cubs needed for six innings, until Carl Edwards Jr. came on in relief for the seventh. Edwards allowed a leadoff single and then a double two batters later, giving way to Brandon Kintzler with two outs.

Kintzler gave up a groundball single up the middle to Andrew McCutchen and just like that, the Cubs' thin 1-0 lead had evaporated in the blink of an eye. And with the offensive issues (they were 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position before Baez's hit), that looked to be enough to send the Cubs to their second straight defeat in frustrating fashion.

But the magic of El Mago and Bryant allowed the Cubs to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat and send fans home happy and with a little more belief that this just might be a special summer on Chicago's North Side.

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Cubs Talk Podcast: Jake Arrieta discusses his return & Mark DeRosa talks the leadoff spot

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USA TODAY

Cubs Talk Podcast: Jake Arrieta discusses his return & Mark DeRosa talks the leadoff spot

Hear from Jake Arrieta after his first start as a visitor at Wrigley Field, including his thoughts on facing his former teammates and the standing ovation he received during his first at-bat (1:30). Then, Luke Stuckmeyer is joined by MLB Network's Mark DeRosa to discuss the Cubs' leadoff spot, the team outperforming expectations so far, and much more (8:15).

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below:

Cubs Talk Podcast

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