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Despite Cubs’ loss in rain-shortened game, Davis’ outing a bright spot

Chicago Cubs starter Doug Davis left listens catcher Koyie Hill during first inning baseball game against San Francisco Giants Saturday

Chicago Cubs starter Doug Davis, left, listens to catcher Koyie Hill during the first inning of a baseball game against the San Francisco Giants, Saturday, May 14, 2011, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

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Updated: August 27, 2011 12:33AM

The first question Saturday was about the weather.

But drizzle and chill couldn’t deter the unusual weekend night game at Wrigley Field between the Cubs and San Francisco Giants — nor, as it turned out, the return of Doug Davis.

The veteran left-hander answered the question about his readiness despite a rain-shortened 3-0 loss. The game went six innings before being halted and then called.

But it was hardly a loss in the big picture for Davis.

‘‘Barring the weather, it was great to get back out there and compete,’’ said Davis, 35, who made his first major-league start since July 9.

He was with the Milwaukee Brewers then. That start came after missing more than a month with inflammation around his heart. A week later, his season ended because of left-elbow tendinitis that eventually required surgery.

Cubs general manager Jim Hendry sought out Davis last month days after starters Randy Wells and Andrew Cashner were lost to injuries. The contract gave Davis an ‘‘out’’ if he was not in the majors by the end of May.

Two minor-league starts of limited duration, coupled with the woes of fill-in starters Casey Coleman and James Russell, were enough to prompt his promotion for the start against the Giants.

Davis more than held his own through five innings, giving up only four hits, striking out six and walking one while throwing 77 pitches. He gave up a run in the first inning on a one-out double by Freddy Sanchez and a two-out single by Buster Posey, who got to third on the first of two errors by Cubs catcher Koyie Hill.

But Davis ended that inning with no more damage and might have escaped the third after giving up a single to pitcher Ryan Vogelsong and a double to Aaron Rowand. After two outs, he walked Posey to load the bases, but successive throwing errors by Hill on a Cody Ross tap and by third baseman Blake DeWitt on a Pat Burrell grounder led to two unearned runs.

The Giants had fielding problems in the wet conditions, as well. Shortstop Miguel Tejada committed errors in the third and fifth. But the Cubs didn’t capitalize, leaving the bases loaded in the first and stranding two in the fifth.

‘‘I did build up my pitches in Arizona [in extended spring training],’’ said Davis, who becomes part of the rotation. ‘‘I felt my stuff came back pretty quickly. I felt I was ready and executed pitches and was able to get some key outs.

‘‘Being a lefty, they say you have nine lives. I’m at five or six now.’’

That was as much a reference to his perseverance through personal struggles.

His last full season was in 2009, when he made 34 starts for the Arizona Diamondbacks. His 9-14 record and 4.12 ERA wouldn’t seem impressive, but it was the season he came back from dealing with thyroid cancer in 2008.

‘‘It says a lot about his fortitude,’’ manager Mike Quade said. ‘‘He’s come back after not pitching in a long time.

‘‘He was real good, exactly the guy I remember. Maybe he’ll throw about 90 pitches the next time [in a start against the Florida Marlins]. We’ll watch how he pitches. But we’ll take this kind of start every time.’’

Davis saw the bright side of the gloomy evening, as well.

‘‘I just feel lucky I had the chance to go out and prove my worth,’’ he said. ‘‘I’m proud to be a Cub, for sure. I’ll try to go out there for the organization. I had one goal when I got to the big leagues, and that was to get 10 years in. I was 44 days short [when his season ended last year]. I’m real happy I came back. I really missed the competition and the camaraderie.’’

The Cubs’ offense had seven hits, one by Marlon Byrd to equal his career-best hitting streak of 15 games, first done in 2003.

Darwin Barney and Starlin Castro also stayed hot. Barney went 2-for-3 for his 16th multihit game, and Castro went 2-for-3 batting third.

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