Each of the last two seasons, right-hander Zach Davies' ERA has landed him in the top 10 of whichever league he pitched in. This year, in the Eastern League, it's been a different story.
At least until the past week.
The Orioles' No. 12 prospect posted his second straight scoreless outing Sunday, this time allowing just one hit over seven innings in Double-A Bowie's 2-0 win over visiting Binghamton.
Davies (3-4) struck out four and walked two, six days after going six scoreless innings in a 3-2 win over Trenton. Prior to that outing, he'd allowed 13 earned runs in his previous three starts, ballooning his ERA to 6.26.
"There were no mechanical issues or anything like that," Davies said. "I think it was just a little combination of making not great pitches and pitch selection.
"Throwing pitches in certain situations that, they may not be bad pitches, but they may not be the right pitches for that situation. Hitters will sit on it or they'll see it well and put it in the outfield and then get runs across the board."
Where Davies' improved sequencing shows most clearly is in the ground ball column. The 21-year-old right-hander got 12 groundouts without requiring a fly out on Sunday, his best ratio this year. He throws a sinker but said most of the rollers came from off-balanced swings generated by executing better pitch selection.
"It just happens," Davies said. "I throw a sinker, but it didn't happen 75 percent of the time on sinkers today. It was a mixture of my pitches, keeping hitters off-balance, not trying to leave it over the plate."
Davies allowed a leadoff double to Kyle Johnson, but retired the next 10 batters. In the fourth inning, he plunked catcher Kevin Plawecki, then walked Matt Clark. He evaded the jam when Jayce Boyd lined a ball right at first baseman Christian Walker, who snagged it and tossed to second to double up Plawecki.
The outing reduced Davies' ERA to 4.24 through nine appearances, including eight starts. It also has him on track at the Double-A level after a rocky start that included a trip to the disabled list with shoulder tendinitis.
Davies has soaked in advice from everyone around him -- catchers, coaches, roving instructors and his fellow pitchers. He said he "likes to watch the game to see certain situations," and has picked up most of what he knows through that lens. That's made the difference in adjusting to the Eastern League.
"For me, it's just you notice the hitters; you may throw a good pitch, but they know how to handle it," Davies said. "You have to make sure it's not just a good pitch but the right pitch for that situation. Hitters are getting better, just like the pitchers are getting better, and they know how to handle those kinds of situations and know what to do with them."
Marcel Prado worked around a walk in the eighth and Oliver Drake struck out two in the ninth for his league-leading 16th save.
Niuman Romero staked Davies to a lead with an RBI single in the third and Kyeong Kang provided some breathing room in the fifth with his sixth homer of the season.