A Cubs record in reach, Wade Davis still isn't satisfied

PHOENIX -- Chicago Cubs closer Wade Davis might be approaching a franchise milestone, but that doesn’t mean he is happy with his game right now.

He’s 24-for-24 in save opportunities this season and just two shy of matching Ryan Dempster's Cubs record for consecutive saves. But whether he ties or surpasses that number isn’t much of a concern for Davis; the right-hander is more interested in making sure he’s ready for the most important time of the season.

“I’ve treated the season like a building block,” Davis said. “You keep chipping away, so when the time comes where you have to win every game, you can do that.”

The 31-year-old has been in what he called “a little bit of [a] slump” lately. He has allowed opposing hitters a .405 on-base percentage against him to go with an .846 OPS since the All-Star break. Davis admits that his command has been off, but he has managed to make the right pitch at the right time to keep his streak alive. For example, he recently struck out Bryce Harper to preserve a victory despite putting two runners on base. He has walked a tightrope recently but has come out of it successfully each time.

“That was about the only good pitch I made that whole inning,” Davis said of the curveball to Harper. “I’ve gone through more spurts this year than I have in the past, as far as giving up some hits and walking guys, for sure.”

Even the best closers don’t often have 1-2-3 innings. Some will have fans biting their nails in the ninth inning more than others. Dempster knows all too well what that feeling is like.

“I remember a game in Philadelphia during the streak where I walked four straight guys in a 2-0 game,” Dempster said by phone Friday. “I believe it’s the only player in major league history to walk four consecutive batters and still get a save. I remember thinking, 'If I can get out of this, I can get out of anything at any time.'"

Confidence is such a big factor for baseball players, even for the closers who often get into and out of trouble. But ultimately, preserving the win is the only thing that matters.

“You know you’re going to blow [a save] eventually,” Dempster said. “But the longer [a streak] goes, it plays into your confidence.”

Is that how Davis is feeling?

“Nah, I don’t really think about it that way,” Davis said. “I’m just concentrating on that time in September and later in the season when everything is checked off and I’m right where I need to be to compete.”

For some closers, showing emotion is part of what makes them successful and perhaps even intimidating. Davis is the opposite.

“It’s his demeanor,” Dempster said. “He’s constantly the same guy. He probably has as much poise as anyone, like Trevor Hoffman and Mariano Rivera used to have. He’s very stoic.”

As for that franchise record, Dempster is just fine with Davis passing his mark. After all, Dempster’s streak encompassed the end of one season and the start of the next. Davis is doing one better, as he is currently the only regular closer in the game who has not blown a save this season. That’s impressive.

“I always said [former Dodger] Eric Gagne screwed it up for the rest of us by saving 84 in a row,” Dempster said. “That’s unrealistic, but I hope [Davis] shatters my mark. I hope he blows by it.”