CHICAGO -- Khris Davis may not exactly be tearing the cover off the ball this year, but he has come through in some big situations.
Davis delivered a walk-off two-run single in Thursday's 4-3 win over the Pirates, his third game-winning hit this season. How do you figure a player who was hitting .227 entering Friday's game has come through with a .313 average in "late and close" situations, which includes plate appearances in the seventh inning or later with the batting team tied, ahead by one, or the tying run at least on deck?
"I can't explain it. It's a confidence thing, always with players on when they're going well, when they're not," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. "He knows that he has succeeded late in a game and extra innings, been very good, so when he's in those situations, he knows that, 'You know, I've always come through here,' and that gives an advantage as to what's happening with whether you're swinging the bat well or not."
Davis also drove home the winning run in extra-inning games on April 20 in Pittsburgh (solo homer in the 14th inning) and on April 28 at St. Louis (12th-inning RBI triple).
"There's something about the game being on the line and who wants to be up there, and so it works both ways and it's confidence," Roenicke said. "I hope we don't always have to go to extra innings for him to do well.
"You know, once they start succeeding, we talk about Davis in late innings, he's very confident now. ... We need to get him to have that same feeling through the game and earlier."
Braun gets breather in Brewers' opener vs. Cubs
CHICAGO -- Brewers star Ryan Braun wasn't in the starting lineup for Friday's series opener with the Cubs. Manager Ron Roenicke said the club planned this day off as the team nurses its All-Star outfielder back to full health, as Braun was activated from the disabled list on Tuesday.
Roenicke said the most important thing was that Braun was able to play all three home games this week against the Pirates, especially since Milwaukee faced a left-handed starter on both Wednesday and Thursday. Braun is doing well after playing part of Tuesday's game (the Brewers had planned to pull him after six innings) and all of the next two contests.
"Yeah, [Braun is] good, and I thought his swings yesterday went well. He squared up a couple balls," Roenicke said. "I think he's feeling pretty good. He hasn't let it go on the throw yet, which probably was good for the first three days not doing that, but I would think he would be fine. Hopefully from here on out, we don't have to worry about this anymore."
Roenicke said he was unsure about whether to give Braun a breather on Friday or Saturday, but he landed on Friday after talking things over with head athletic trainer Dan Wright. Caution is the name of the game with Braun, whose only scheduled rehab game with Class A Wisconsin was washed away by rain.
"It's never a good situation when you have a guy, especially with an oblique, to not have the rehab assignment, because you're going on what the player tells you," Roenicke said. "... If he comes out and all of a sudden he feels it again, you're in trouble. So that's why we try to take it easy and make sure we're really protecting ourselves from throwing him right out there [for] nine innings ... [if] something happens, all of a sudden we're back on the DL again."
Brewers hope for Gomez's return from injury
CHICAGO -- Center fielder Carlos Gomez will finish serving his three-game suspension on Friday for his role in the benches-clearing incident with the Pirates in April, but it's unclear if he'll be ready for Saturday's game against the Cubs.
Gomez was removed in the sixth inning of Tuesday's game against the Pirates with lower back tightness, after which he decided he might as well drop his appeal of the suspension to rest. Even with the time off, Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said the condition of Gomez's back seems to change on a daily basis.
"Yesterday, it felt great. Today, it's not quite as good as yesterday, so I don't know what's happening again," Roenicke said. "He hurt it sleeping, just in bed too long or whatever. I don't know if it was the mattress, whatever. So I don't know if he just has to be careful with what he's doing, but especially when we go on the road with the different hotels and different beds. There's a lot of achy backs when we go to certain places."
Roenicke can only hope Gomez's back tightness doesn't become a long-term issue, given how banged up the Brewers are right now. With Aramis Ramirez on the DL with a strained hamstring and the team having recently activated Ryan Braun off the shelf, Milwaukee can ill-afford to lose another big bat.
"I'm hoping [Gomez is] OK," Roenicke said. "Originally when we talked about this, I didn't expect ... I thought that just the one day was bad, which was a day we took him out of the game. The next day, he wasn't so good, but the day after, like I said, he was really good yesterday.
"He's straight again, walking normal and I thought he'd be fine, and now they tell me it's still there. It's not that it's bad, but it's still there, which I was surprised."
• Roenicke seems happy with the balance in his lineup this season, something some of his past teams lacked. Friday's lineup included three left-handed hitters (Logan Schafer, Scooter Gennett and Lyle Overbay) and one switch-hitter (Elian Herrera).
"The other day, we wrote out a lineup that for the first [time] ever since I've been here, was left-right, left-right all the way through the lineup," Roenicke said. "So it's nice when you kind of spread them out some."
• Friday's game is the start of a season-long 10-game road trip that also includes stops in Atlanta for four games and Miami for three. Entering play Friday, the Brewers are a National League-best 12-5 on the road. Milwaukee didn't earn its 12th road win last season until June 15.
• Heading into Friday's game, Milwaukee starters have made a Major League-high 31 quality starts. The Brewers have gone consecutive games without a quality start just once, on April 4-5.
• Closer Francisco Rodriguez needs just one save to tie Jose Mesa for 15th place on the all-time MLB saves list.
Joe Popely is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.