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Cubs unsung heroes: Doug Davis, May 14, 2011

This was Davis’ first game as a Cub. And it was memorable.

Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Oh, man, do I remember this game.

It was played in monsoon-like conditions, primarily because the weather forecast for the next day wasn’t any better and, given that the opponent was from outside the N.L. Central (the Giants), the Cubs didn’t want to have back-to-back doubleheaders the next time the Giants came to town (in those years, some outside-the-division opponents did make two trips to Wrigley).

And so they played. I located the BCB game preview for May 14, 2011, which contained this weather forecast:

Tonight: Showers and possibly a thunderstorm. Low around 44. Breezy, with a north wind between 15 and 20 mph, with gusts as high as 35 mph. Chance of precipitation is 90%. New rainfall amounts between a half and three quarters of an inch possible.

It was as bad as it looks in that forecast. It rained sideways, so much so that I never took my scorecard out. Foul balls would hit the screen behind the plate and water would splash off it.

And the Cubs’ starter was Doug Davis. Who? He had been a decent rotation guy for the Diamondbacks and Brewers for a few years, but Milwaukee let him go after 2010 and no one signed him in the ensuing offseason. A few days after the 2011 season began, the Cubs signed Davis to a minor-league deal. He made one start at Daytona and one at Iowa and then the Cubs called him up for this start, mainly because Randy Wells was on the disabled list and James Russell’s five starts in Wells’ place had been horrendous (9.33 ERA, 2.018 WHIP, seven home runs allowed in 18⅓ innings).

Davis had made 18 career starts against the Cubs with pretty good results: 3.55 ERA, 1.209 WHIP, 114 strikeouts in 116⅔ innings, and his Wrigley Field ERA was even better: 2.98 in seven career starts. The Cubs hoped, even at age 35, he could do the same to opponents with his funky motion (he’d pause in the middle) and the junk he was throwing.

For this night, it went pretty well for Davis. He threw five innings and allowed three runs (one earned; the Cubs made three errors in the game), striking out six. Here is one of those strikeouts, ending the third inning [VIDEO].

You can see fans behind the plate in rain gear and parkas. I still don’t think that gives you any real idea of how awful the conditions were. The only game I can recall since then played in worse weather was that 2018 game against the Braves where the Cubs came back from eight runs down to win.

The Cubs lost this game 3-0. Here’s the BCB recap of the game. Ryan Vogelsong threw six shutout innings, after which the game was halted and not resumed. As was forecast, the next day’s weather was worse and the May 15 game was postponed and made up as part of a split-admission doubleheader on June 28.

Oddly enough, the same pitching matchup occurred in Game 1 of that June doubleheader, Vogelsong vs. Davis, and the Cubs entered that doubleheader having lost 20 of their last 30 games. So Davis was left in to “take one for the team” — he allowed 12 hits, three walks and 10 earned runs in 4⅓ innings. He was unconditionally released the next day and never pitched in the major leagues again, though he made a few minor-league starts in the White Sox and Royals organizations in 2011 and 2012.

Among other things, Davis has the fourth-lowest batting average in MLB history (.083) for anyone with 450 or more career plate appearances. He went 0-for-10 as a Cub and didn’t have a hit in any of his last 26 MLB at-bats.

Davis did have one other good game with the Cubs, June 17 against the Yankees at Wrigley, in which he allowed one run in seven innings. I could have chosen that one, I suppose... but I will never forget the horrible weather in which Doug Davis made his Cubs debut.