Must-win game number two for Tampa Bay will feature Wade Davis as starting pitcher. Monday will be an off-day whether the series continues or not, meaning just about everyone on Tampa Bay’s staff shy of David Price (if he’s saved for a potential game five) and Matt Garza (who started Saturday’s game) would be available in relief work if Davis happens to stumble.
Davis’ likelihood to slip and slide may or may not be more unpredictable than other pitches, but it sure feels like it. From June until August, Davis’ xFIP finished in the 4.8s, yet his peripherals danced across the floor to a foreign pattern. One month, Davis would look like a pitcher with a flair for the three true outcomes. The next he would be a contact aficionado. Based on his six five, 220 pound frame and low-to-mid 90s heater (his adoration for which is no secret) one would think Davis is closer to the pitcher who will strike some out and walk some more, but in a perfect world he falls into his September numbers; where he compiled a 7.49 K/9 and 2.94 BB/9.
The only thing with more rate changes than his numbers is his favorability amongst the locals that stems from an improved ERA and win-loss record. In fact, since returning from the disabled list on August 5, Davis went 3-1 with a 3.76 ERA. A good chunk of that improvement can be attributed to only giving up five home runs in 50-plus innings. Consider that at one point, Davis gave up five home runs in an 11 innings span and `18 over his first 94 innings.
Has Davis improved in anything but luck? One would like to think so (and the numbers spell this out to some degree as well) but expect Joe Maddon to have his pen ready at a whim. After all, he pulled James Shields and Matt Garza well before either hit the 100-pitches mark, and neither were in games that could force a decisive game five.
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