Davis ready to bear down vs. Rangers
Rookie feels confident prior to making postseason debut
ARLINGTON -- Wade Davis will take the mound in the Texas heat on Sunday afternoon, his team's season hanging in the balance. He is a rookie who has never appeared in a postseason game. So if you didn't know the Rays righty, you might wonder if he was up for such a stiff challenge.
But the 25-year-old Davis has been coming through in big spots for his team all year, a staple in the rotation for a club that won 96 regular-season games.
"If you have been watching us towards the end of the season, Wade has been throwing the ball extremely well," said manager Joe Maddon. "He's kind of cold blooded."
Of course, Davis' fearlessness is not limited to the mound.
"He shot a bear recently in Toronto and came out with a bear with a bow and arrow and put it down, so I really thought he has taken off since that occurred," Maddon said. "[It was] an off-day in Toronto and the boys went bear hunting. That's a nice day off right there, and Wade was the only one that came back with the 300-plus-pound black bear. If he can stay eye to eye with a black bear, I think tomorrow is not that big of a deal."
"That was a heart pounding moment," said Davis.
Instead of black bears, Davis will spend Sunday staring down the likes of Josh Hamilton, Vladimir Guerrero, Nelson Cruz and Michael Young in Game 4 of the American League Division Series, which the Rangers lead, two games to one.
"You know, they are a pretty interesting lineup," said Davis. "They are really aggressive, they attack you. So I think you have to get them thinking one way and then attack them in a different zone, or however you want to say it. But they are definitely a team you can't take for granted and you have to stay on top of."
The Rays staved off elimination in Game 3, and now Davis will try to get it done again and force the series back to Tropicana Field for a winner-take-all Game 5 on Tuesday.
Davis, who went 12-10 with a 4.07 ERA and held opponents to a .255 average, is revved up for the challenge.
"It is definitely a moment I always thought about being in," said Davis. "I think it will be a good moment for us, and I will feel confident physically and mentally to go out there and do my job."
In situations like this, some managers might bring back the ace -- in this case, David Price -- on three days' rest for Game 4. But Maddon never wavered in his belief that Davis should pitch this game.
Wade Davis of late ...
|June 4||TEX||3 1/3||9||8||0||4||L, 9-6|
|Sept. 22||NYY||2 1/3||0||0||1||1||W, 7-2|
|Sept. 27||BAL||6 1/3||7||3||1||2||L, 4-0|
|Oct. 3||KC||7||3||2||2||6||W, 3-2|
"It gives me a lot of confidence," Davis said. "It tells me that he can trust me, that I can go out and get the job done, and I am fortunate to be in that situation."
Inexperience is not always a bad thing in the postseason. When Maddon was the bench coach for the 2002 Angels, he remembers a rookie named John Lackey getting the win in Game 7 of the World Series against the Giants.
"I really believe watching him more recently, you know, it reminds me of Lackey a little bit," Maddon said. "When I joined with Johnny back in the day with the Angels and he had a good 2002 playoff run, and I see a little bit of that with Wade. I know one thing, he's going to show up tomorrow and he's going to be himself, and he's going to go out there he's throwing the ball harder. His velocity has been up since he came off the shoulder issue and the curveball is really good, too. I have a lot of trust in Wade tomorrow."
Obviously, Davis is about to face the unknown, because he's never stood on the mound before in a postseason -- not to mention in front of a packed house of fans rooting for him to fail.
"I think the biggest thing is just staying relaxed," Davis said. "When you are in the regular season, you are relaxed [and] confident, and I think in this situation you have to have that. If you are overexcited or too amped up, it can work against you."
Matt Garza came through in big fashion in Game 3 -- even if he took a no-decision. Now it is up to Davis to pass the baton to Price.
"I love him," said Garza. "No better guy I'd rather run out there. Joe has a lot of confidence in him, and why shouldn't we? He's been solid for the last three months of the season. Let this young guy go get them."
Davis is ready to relish the moment -- the biggest he's had to date.
"I am real confident," Davis said. "If we can push it to Game 5, that would be really good."