Arizona’s Doug Davis says Friday’s start will be just like any other. But considering what he’s been through this season, that’s a little hard to believe.
After more than a month off while recovering from thyroid cancer surgery, Davis returns to the mound on Friday as the Diamondbacks open a four-game series with the streaking Atlanta Braves at Turner Field.
Davis (1-1, 3.72 ERA) had a cancerous thyroid gland removed April 10, just two days after making his second start of the season. He was declared cancer-free this month and rejoined the Diamondbacks (28-19) this week after making a pair of rehab starts for Triple-A Tucson.
“I’m just going to treat it like any other start,” Davis said. “There’s nothing special about it, really. It’s just another start. I’ll get out there and try to execute my game plan, and that’s the bottom line.”
While Davis is playing down his return, the rest of the Diamondbacks are clearly pleased to have him back.
“He’s a mainstay in our clubhouse and a guy that’s very well-respected here,” manager Bob Melvin said. “We all felt for him for what’s he’s going through, but I think he’s the type of guy that doesn’t want to put any extra distractions on the team. He just wants to move on past this thing and go about his business.”
Davis went 13-12 with a 4.25 ERA in 33 starts for the Diamondbacks last season, setting a career-high for wins. He made the two starts at the beginning of 2008 even though the cancer was discovered before the season started.
Davis has not earned a decision in three previous starts against the Braves (26-21), despite a 2.84 ERA. However, he’ll have his work cut out for him, as Atlanta has won five straight and is coming off a four-game home sweep of the New York Mets.
The Braves outscored the Mets 27-9 and got 12 hits off Johan Santana in Thursday’s 4-2 win - the most the two-time AL Cy Young award winner has ever allowed. Chipper Jones drove in the go-ahead run in a three-run seventh against Santana and was 6-for-14 with a homer in the series to boost his average to a major league-best .412.
“I don’t think anyone thought we’d sweep those guys,” said Tim Hudson, who pitched eight innings for the win. “It’s big, 7-2 against that club makes a pretty good statement.”
The Braves own the best home record in the NL at 20-5 - just ahead of the Diamondbacks, who are tied for second with the Cubs at 19-8. However, Arizona has dropped six in a row on the road and is coming off a three-game sweep in Florida.
The Diamondbacks were shut out for the first time this season on Thursday, falling 4-0 in the series finale. They entered the series with the best record in the majors, but managed only 17 hits while getting outscored 10-3 in the matchup of division leaders.
“We’re just struggling,” Melvin said. “We’re going to have to fight through it. No one is going to feel sorry for you.”
Arizona will try to bounce back against Atlanta’s Jo-Jo Reyes (2-1, 4.12), who gave up two runs in five innings of Sunday’s 5-2 win over Oakland - the first of the Braves’ five straight victories - despite a blister on his left index finger. The blister first became a problem on May 8, when he lasted just 2 2-3 innings against San Diego.
Reyes made his only previous start against Arizona on July 27, when he was pounded for seven runs in four innings in Atlanta’s 11-inning, 8-7 loss.