A Huge Game for the Mets, A Bigger One for Rafael Montero
It’s hard to think of a time when there was so much riding on one game not just for a team, but also for the team’s starting pitcher.
For the Mets, the largeness of the situation is obvious. The Mets are entering a four game set against the Miami Marlins at Citi Field. The Mets are currently one game behind the Marlins in the race for the second Wild Card, and they are 2.5 games back (three in the loss column) of the St. Louis Cardinals. By winning three out of four, the Mets will go from one game back of the Marlins to going two games ahead of them in the Wild Card race. The hope is also that the Mets make up some ground against the Cardinals and Pirates as well.
For Rafael Montero, there is so much more at stake. For Montero, his future with the entire Mets organization could very well be coming to an end. The Mets have notable prospects like Amed Rosario, Gavin Cecchini, and Marcos Molina who will need to be added to the 40 man roster or be exposed to the Rule 5 Draft. Given Montero’s failures at the major league level, and the fact that the team has been frustrated with him for well over a season now, Montero’s future with the Mets looks bleak.
It never looked bleaker than when he was demoted to AA earlier this season. However, something strange happened there. For the first time in his career, Montero responded to adversity. In eight starts, Montero has gone 4-2 with a 1.70 ERA and a 1.091 WHIP. It is clearly the best Montero has ever pitched in his entire career. Part of the reason why is because Montero’s command is much better in AA, and his changeup has been better. Given his repetoire, both were always a necessity for him in order to succeed. Another possibility for Montero’s success was his facing presumably weaker batters in AA. This has all lead to him having more confidence on the mound, and him returning to the type of pitcher that once was regarded as a better prospect than Jacob deGrom.
The Mets need that Montero tonight against a Marlins team that has a habit of breaking the Mets’ hearts. It’s a Marlins team that is sending their ace, Jose Fernandez, to the mound tonight. Not only is Fernandez an ace, but he has dominated the Mets in his young career. In seven starts against the Mets, he is 3-0 with a 1.54 ERA, 0.951 WHIP, and an 11.9 K/9. He has limited the Mets’ batters to a .181/.247/.236 batting line. The Mets are going to need Montero to be lights out in order to keep them in the game.
If he is, Montero will not only help the Mets postseason chances, he will also help himself. He can change what the Mets perception of him will be. He can once again find himself a part of the Mets future instead of being a guy who may very well be on his way out the door.