Khris Davis was 0-for-8 with four strikeouts during Milwaukee's opening homestand before catching fire at Fenway Park, with at least two hits and two runs scored in each of the Brewers' three victories over the reigning World Series champions. In all, Davis was 8-for-15 with four hard-hit doubles and an RBI. The 26-year-old fueled the Brewers' first sweep of the Sox since 1993, and he gave a glimpse of what club officials think he's capable of in his first full Major League season.
Davis will try to stay hot when the Brewers help open Citizens Bank Park for the 2014 season on Tuesday against the Phillies.
"I felt like I was actually doing something to help the team win," Davis said. "Now I have something to build off of."
That is very good news for the Brewers, who moved Ryan Braun to right field over the winter in part to free a spot in the starting lineup for Davis' big bat. Six games into the regular season, Davis' slugging potential is more important than ever, since Braun was limited to designated-hitter duties on Friday and was out of the lineup Saturday because of a troublesome nerve in his right thumb that has sapped his power for nearly a year. If Braun is compromised by that injury again this season, Davis will head the line of hitters counted on to help compensate.
"I think he's an important guy," said Roenicke, who pushed back all spring against those who want to pin pressure on Davis. "I think the combination of him and if I have [Logan] Schafer in there, they're important. The defense is important to me, but the offensive part, [we need] to be deep in the lineup.
"We talk about that we're not an on-base team, we're not a team that works counts, so we have to be deep as far as bashing the ball. You can't count on just your top five guys in that lineup. If you don't do those other things well, you'd better swing it all through the lineup, and I think we have guys that can."
Davis has made a meteoric rise on Milwaukee's depth chart over the past 13 months. He reported to 2013 Spring Training with a miniscule chance of making the team, but made the team anyway after a power display. When he struggled off the bench at the start of the season, the Brewers sent him to Triple-A Nashville. There, Davis rediscovered his swing and his confidence, belting 13 homers in 69 games and earning two trips back to Milwaukee.
Davis returned for good on July 23, the day after Braun was suspended for the rest of the season, and he was one of baseball's best power hitters down the stretch. Davis led the team with 11 home runs and tied for the team lead with 27 RBIs from July 23 through the end of the season, and he finished his rookie year with a .596 slugging percentage. Among big leaguers with at least 20 plate appearances in 2013, only Hanley Ramirez, Miguel Cabrera and Chris Davis (no relation) were better.
After his big series in Boston, Davis' slugging percentage through six games is up to .522.
"The nice thing about this game is Khris Davis went from not feeling very confident to all of a sudden, now, as high as you can get," Roenicke said. "And it can happen in one day."
The same thing happened in Spring Training. Davis was off to an uncomfortable start, batting .194 through his first 31 Cactus League at-bats with one extra-base hit (a home run), nine strikeouts and zero walks. He was so frustrated he was taking extra batting practice until his hands hurt. Davis asked Roenicke for more at-bats in games, so the manager responded by using him as a pinch-hitter to lead off the ninth inning against the D-backs on March 14. Davis doubled and scored the winning run.
Just like that, Davis got hot. Now, after a quiet series to begin the regular season and a discussion with Brewers hitting coach Johnny Narron, it appears to be happening again.
"I made some minor adjustments as far as cutting down my swing and less movement, so if I can be a little more quiet, I think the hits will come," Davis said. "A lot more hard hits."
Davis made those little adjustments on the Brewers' off-day last week, then showed up in Boston on Friday and hit the fourth pitch he saw from Jake Peavy for a double.
"Every day is an adjustment," Davis said. "The first one, now that it's out of the way, you can stop thinking about it and just take your ABs."
Davis is trying to keep a similarly focused approach to the season as a whole.
"I just have to stay under control and do what I know how to do," Davis said. "I don't have to do too much. Braun told me that I don't have to take this team and put it on my shoulders. If I just do the little things -- like get the runner over from second in the second inning, little ABs like that -- that will go a long way for this team.
"Rickie [Weeks] tells me the same thing. A lot of the vets are looking out for me right here, and I'm thankful I have them."