Thursday belonged to the right-hander, who earned a seven-out save, the longest of his career, to preserve the Cubs’ 9-8 win over the Nationals in Game 5 of the National League Division Series presented by T-Mobile. The Cubs advance to play the Dodgers in the NL Championship Series presented by Camping World.
“The guy has been awesome for us,” third baseman Kris Bryant said of Davis. “I love watching him pitch.”
Davis was the seventh Cubs pitcher used after starter Kyle Hendricks lasted four innings. Manager Joe Maddon had already called upon starter Jose Quintana, as well as Carl Edwards Jr., who pitched in all five games of the series.
Davis entered with two on and two outs in the seventh, striking out Ryan Zimmerman to end the inning. He walked the first two batters in the eighth, but induced a double play from pinch-hitter Adam Lind. Michael A. Taylor, who had hit a three-run homer in the second, added an RBI single to close the gap to 9-8.
“All of [the at-bats]felt pretty key,” Davis said, unable to pick one. “They put a lot of pressure on. They’re such a good team. They’re definitely one of the best offenses I’ve ever faced. We got some lucky outs there, getting the double play was big. Everything fell into place.”
“I was prepared to use Wade for six, but what’s the difference between six and seven outs, right?” manager Joe Maddon said.
Davis’ previous career high was a six-out save, which he did twice in the 2015 postseason with the Royals. He has never recorded a save of four or more outs in the regular season.
“He’s one of the toughest guys on this team, and he’ll give you whatever you need,” Hendricks said. “He’s a special guy, and made huge pitches tonight to get that ‘W.'”
Davis admitted he struggled a bit in the eighth.
“I was just trying to find some timing,” Davis said. “I was rushing a little bit, maybe too amped up. The last inning, I made about 50 percent of the pitches I needed to make, and it ended up working out.”
It came down to Davis vs. Bryce Harper for the final out, and the Nationals’ right fielder struck out to end the game.
“I was just trying to stay relaxed,” Davis said. “He took such an aggressive swing the first swing that I was hoping he’d stay aggressive. Up to the last pitch, he was still pretty aggressive.”
Davis’ teammates were impressed.
“To me, in the ninth inning, it looked like he just came out of the bullpen and he refocused, locked in and stayed in the moment,” right fielder Jason Heyward said. “That’s the testament of our season. You have to stay in the moment.”
Pedro Strop, who pitched one inning of relief, was rooting for Davis, too.
“He’s such a great man,” Strop said. “I’m really happy for him, and for the team, the way he did that. I know he used to be a starter, but I’ve never seen him throw that many pitches in an outing. That was huge for us as a team. Hopefully, that doesn’t happen again for us.”
Ben Zobrist was teammates with Davis in Tampa Bay from 2009-12 and again in Kansas City in 2015.
“I’ve seen him throw a lot,” Zobrist said. “I’ve always known he’s got a lot of mettle in his soul. The guy really just shows up. He’s got ice in his veins. When you extend a closer that long, he has to get up a couple different times like that and try to shut down a hot team that’s really coming back in the game. It was a very tough moment. He really hung tough there for us and pulled it out for us.”
Said first baseman Anthony Rizzo of Davis: “He’s stone cold. He doesn’t have a heartbeat. He goes out there, does his thing and lays it all on the line. That’s what this team builds on.”
Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.