Jordan Montgomery was traded to Texas shortly before the trade deadline. He was not an afterthought, but he was also not the prized acquisition. That designation fell to Max Scherzer. It was Scherzer who was brought in to start game 1 of this series. It was Scherzer who was added to help this team get deep into the playoffs. Yet, almost two months after Montgomery made his debut it is the lefty who was on the stage Tuesday afternoon. It is Montgomery who has been the ace that this team has been searching for since Jacob deGrom went down back in April.
Montgomery continued his dominant stretch on Tuesday with another seven innings and no runs allowed. Montgomery on September 8th allowed five runs to the Oakland A's. Since that start he has pitched 34 innings and allowed just two earned runs. He has made five starts and in four of them he has pitched seven innings. He has been just brilliant over the last three weeks and that continued into today's postseason start.
Why did Montgomery have so much success against Tampa Bay?
Kevin Cash did what most managers do against good left-handed pitchers, he loaded up his lineup with right-handed hitters. Montgomery did not face a single left-handed hitter in his seven innings. Of course that meant sitting a good hitter in Josh Lowe. Montgomery throughout his career has retired righties and lefties at about the same rate and he has faced many right-handers much more than left-handers. Cash thought that would be difficult for Montgomery, but it was just another start. Seattle did almost the same thing to Montgomery in his last start on Thursday night.
Montgomery today just went up in attack mode. He had a great feel for all of his pitches. He was locating them right where he wanted to. He was not afraid of attacking the inside corner on these right-handers. He mixed up his pitches very well. He threw 93 pitches in this game and threw each of his four pitches almost an equal amount. He threw 26 fastballs, 24 curveballs, 23 sinkers, and 20 changeups. He was not leaning on one or two pitches which made guessing what pitch he was going to throw next almost impossible for the Rays hitters.
Montgomery blacks out and sets the tone for the rest of the game
He also put his body on the line for an out early in the game. He took off from the mound on a Jose Siri bunt attempt in the second inning and this happened,
That play let the team know that Montgomery was not here for a moral victory. He was here to win the game. Everyone in the field and in the dugout was fired up by that play. The trainers did come out and check on Montgomery, but he was cleared to stay in the game and kept on dominating. That play did have significance as two runners were on base at the time. That catch was the second out and he followed that up by striking out catcher Rene Pinto to end the inning. After the game Montgomery was asked about the play and this is what he had to say,
"I knew [first baseman Nathaniel Lowe] was playing back, so it was my ball,” he said. “I saw it high enough in the air, kind of made two quick steps at it, and then kind of just blacked out and went for it"- Jordan Montgomery
The closest Tampa would have to rally after that was a one-out Randy Arozarena double in the third inning and a two-out single and error that led to Isaac Paredes being on second base in the sixth inning. Both times Montgomery rebounded to retire the side.
The at-bat of the game was maybe his last one against rookie Junior Caminero. A top prospect that was brought up late in the season was brought in to pinch hit in the seventh with a runner on base. He and Montgomery battled to a full count and on pitch six he struck out Caminero on a curveball. He walked off the mound
This game clearly meant more to Montgomery than any start in his career. The diving catch, the focus placed on every pitch, and then the walk-off reaction after his final pitch thrown in this game.
Montgomery joins an exclusive club of Texas Rangers pitching
Montgomery joined a rather exclusive list with his start today. He joined Cliff Lee and Derek Holland as the only pitchers to throw or seven or more scoreless innings in a playoff game. This was the first shutout of a postseason opponent for Texas since the Derek Holland game in game 4 of the 2011 World Series.
Montgomery with this start and the Rangers win that followed now has put the Rangers on the precipice of winning their postseason series since the 2011 ALCS against the Detroit Tigers. Right now, with how Montgomery is pitching it appears he could be on his way to having a Cliff Lee-type of October. That is if Texas can advance deep enough to allow Montgomery to make more starts this month.