CINCINNATI -- His catcher and manager agreed this was Zach Davies' finest start of the season. In the end, that praise was all Davies had to show for it.
In his return from what amounted to a paper move to Triple-A, Davies delivered seven scoreless innings in a 1-0 loss to the Reds decided on a passed ball in the bottom of the ninth. Davies and Reds starter Dan Straily combined to pitch the bulk of the 20th 1-0 game in the 14-year history of Great American Ball Park.
"[Davies] deserved a lot better than the way the game ended," said Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy said. "He threw so well, probably his best start of the year, in my opinion. And we couldn't get any runs on the board."
Davies did his part. After surrendering singles to the first two batters he faced, he retired Joey Votto, Jay Bruce and Adam Duvall in order to escape first-inning damage, ending the frame with help from center fielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis' diving catch.
Davies then faced the minimum the rest of the way, erasing singles in the second when Lucroy threw out Jose Peraza stealing second base, and the fourth on a double play. Davies retired 16 of the final 17 batters he faced, including the last 11 in a row. He struck out five without issuing a walk.
"It's great to be back," Davies said. "It's great to go out there and, from the start, be in the game, be focused, and that I'm attacking the hitters the way we set up the game plan."
He was back after a stint on the Triple-A Colorado Springs roster, though Davies never pitched for that affiliate. The Brewers optioned him down on July 6 after Davies' final start of the first half, knowing he wouldn't pitch again until after the All-Star break. The move allowed the team to add an extra bench bat.
Davies' agent, Scott Boras, expressed displeasure with the roster move, though Davies shrugged it off on Sunday. He threw a series of bullpen sessions during his 11-day layoff to stay sharp, most recently in Cincinnati on Friday.
Asked whether the Brewers compensated him for the days of lost service time, Davies said, "I think so. I know my agent has all the details, but I didn't really get into it. I left that to them. I heard about the move and just kind of went with it. That's all that I really can do."
Back on the mound, Davies appeared no worse for the extended layoff. He has lowered his ERA over his last 13 starts to 2.95.
"Both sides pitched really, really well," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. "Straily and Davies were pretty similar. I thought Zach, that was his best start of the year. Really, after the first [inning], he was really in control of what was happening."
All that was missing was the payoff in the end.
"Tough game, terrible way to lose, but you have to move on," Lucroy said.
Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy, like him on Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.