Rafael Montero

Montero Back To Form, Mets Back To Losers

Well, the good Rafael Montero we had seen become one of the Mets most reliable starters turned back into the Montero of old.  In his four innings of work, Montero had allowed seven hits, two walks, and five earned runs.

The Marlins went to work against him right away with a Dee Gordon lead-off double.  For a moment, it seemed like Montero would get out of the inning unscathed, but he would allow a two out RBI single to Marcell Ozuna.  After a 1-2-3 second and Montero retiring the first two batters of the third, it seemed as if Montero had settled in and was ready to go deep into the game.

That was until a two out walk to Christian Yelich got the rally started.  Yelich stole second and scored on Ozuna’s second RBI two out RBI single of the game.  For a moment, it seemed as if Jose Reyes could make a play on the ball, but it went right by him.  After a Justin Bour two run homer, the Marlins were up 4-0, and it became an easy game for Jose Urena and the Marlins.

The Mets would make things look better than they were.  Travis d’Arnaud would hit a pinch hit RBI single in the fifth scoring Kevin PlaweckiBrandon Nimmo would hit a seventh inning homer to pull the Mets to within a manageable 5-2 score.  It seemed like the Mets would have a chance with Chris Flexen pitching two scoreless innings in what might have been his best outing in a Mets uniform.

It was all for naught as the Marlins would play Home Run Derby against Erik Goeddel in the eighth.  He allowed homers to A.J. Ellis, Miguel Rojas, and Giancarlo Stanton to turn a 5-2 lead into a 9-2 lead.  For Stanton, it was his 56th homer of the year.  Too bad for Stanton, he no longer has games against the Mets in his chase of Roger Maris.

To that extent, the Mets had maybe one win in what was a putrid sweep at the hands of the Marlins.  The Mets will now get a day off, and they will come home for the last home series of the season.  For the first time in two years, that does not involve a loss in a postseason series.

Game Notes: Amed Rosario missed his third straight game with a gastroenteritis.

 

 

Montero Still Hasn’t Figured Things Out

There’s no denying that since his latest call-up, Rafael Montero has been a much better pitcher.  Even if Mets fans have long come to distrust Montero, it’s hard to argue with the results.  Since July 18th, Montero has made 12 starts and one relief appearance.  Over that stretch, he’s 4-5 with a 4.68 ERA, 1.589 WHIP, and an 8.4 K/9.  Mixed in there, Montero has had some brilliant starts including an 8.1 inning three hit shut out against the Reds.

This is a far cry from the Montero who entered the season with a 1-5 record, 5.15 ERA, and a 1.636 WHIP.  Things were actually worse than that in his earlier call-ups this season.  Prior to July 18th, Montero was 1-5 with a 5.77 ERA and a 1.897 WHIP. The main culprit for all of these struggles was the walks.  Until his most recent call-up, he was walking 5.4 batters per nine.  According to Fangraphs, that’s a significant step past “Awful.”

Now, Montero has been much better because he has been attacking batters and the strike zone.  That’s why he is getting better results and has begun to change everyone’s impression of him.  However, he is still walking too many batters.   Through the aforementioned 13 appearances, Montero is walking 4.7 batters per nine.

Again, according to Fangraphs, this is still a step past awful.

Overall, this is the danger with judging pitchers on the sole basis of them improving.  Montero has gone from being a pitcher once demoted to Double-A to a pitcher who has had some successful starts at the Major League level.  For the first time, we have seen some glimpses of the pitcher the Mets have held onto for so long.  Still, we are not seeing a complete and finished product that can be consistently relied upon throughout the course of a season.

In the end, Montero is improved, and there are hopes he could actually be a contributor.  How he contributes becomes dicey.

He’s out of options meaning he cannot be stashed away in the minors as an emergency starter.  With him walking as many batters as he does, you can’t rely upon him as a reliever to preserve a lead.  That really leaves two options for the Mets with Montero: 1) move on from him and run the risk of him figuring it out elsewhere; or 2) make him a long reliever.

The long reliever role is one the Mets have been sorely lacking for the last two seasons.  It has led to the decimation of the bullpen time and again.  With the Mets having stayed with Montero this long, you might as well give him the chance as he’s finally earned it.

 

Improved Montero Can’t Get Out Of Fifth

After you get your brains beat out like the Mets did in Chicago, you want your ace taking the mound. The good news is the Mets had their ace taking the mound. The bad news is that their ace has become Rafael Montero

That’s no slight on Montero, who had pitched much better of late. It’s more of an indictment on the Mets starting pitching staff who has the second worst ERA in the majors. 

Tonight, Montero regressed a bit needing 108 pitches to get through 4.2 innings. It harkened back to the days when he couldn’t put anyone away. On the flip side, he only walked two batters. With Montero only pitching 4.2 innings, he didn’t qualify for a win. 

He also didn’t qualify for a win because he reliqushed the lead in that turbulent fifth inning. 

The Mets had the lead partially because Dominic Smith continued flashing his extra base power. In the fourth, he doubled home Asdrubal Cabrera to give the Mets a 2-1 lead. 

The Mets first run was scored in the third on a Jose Reyes groundout scoring Gavin Cecchini

Cecchini got the rare start partially due to Amed Rosario missing tonight’s game with a hip injury which forced him out of last night’s game. Cecchini took advantage of the opportunity going 1-3 with a run and a double. He was also good at second showing range and helping start a double play. 

Despite Cecchini playing well defensively, it was defense that cost the Mets this game. 

The game winning rally started in the fifth when Brandon Nimmo misread a ball cutting in on a David Freitas liner. Hard to say it would have been an out with the correct read, but with Freitas’ speed, Nimmo might’ve been able to limit him to a single. 

Freitas would score on a Ender Inciarte game tying single. Inciarte then put himself in scoring position with a stolen base. With his speed and Kevin Plawecki‘s arm, it really was only a matter of time before Inciarte stole that base. 

After that stolen base, Montero walked Ozzie Albies. Worse yet, Montero threw a wild pitch during Freddie Freeman‘s at bat putting runners on second and third with one out. Freeman was then intentionally walked bringing Lane Adams to the plate. 

Adams hit a sinking line drive that Nimmo made a great play on:

It was a great play, but it was also a sacrifice fly giving the Braves a 3-2 lead. 

The Mets would rally in the eighth staring with a two out Cabrera walk. After a Plawecki single, the tying run was in scoring position for Smith, the team’s leading RBI guy since he call-up. Unfortunately, he didn’t deliver. 

With that, the Mets had a rather mundane 3-2 loss against the Braves.  The real hope in watching this game is that Smith continues to hit for power, and Cecchini builds off of this game. 
Game Recap: In addition to Rosario, Travis d’Arnaud sat a day after being lifted from a game. It is possible he was going to sit anyway with Plawecki having served as Montero’s personal catcher of late. 

Montero & Plawecki Lead Mets to Victory (Not a Joke)

If you had the duo of Rafael Montero and Kevin Plawecki powering the Mets to victory, one of three things are probably true:

  1. You’ve been in a coma since 2014;
  2. You’re a much better gambler than Craig Carton; or
  3. You just started watching baseball this September. 

Seriously, Montero and Plawecki have been much improved players at a time where it seemed even the Mets were beginning to give up on both of them. Finally, the Mets faith in both seems to be rewarded. Tonight was the latest example. 

Plawecki has been much improved at the plate.  It’s not just batting average or OBP, it’s his hitting for power. 

His two run shot in the second inning was a no doubter. It was the second of the season and sixth of his career. It gave the Mets a 2-1 lead, and the team didn’t look back. 

For the first five innings that was because of Montero. Except for a 1-2-3 first, he was in trouble all night long. Part of that was the re-emergence of his walks problem with Montero allowing five walks in five innings. 

Still, while the walks re-emerged, the meltdowns didn’t. He made the pitches he needed to get out of jams and innings. 

He then handed the call to Chasen Bradford, who has rebounded well from his one poor outing against these Reds at the end of August. In that outing, he gave up four runs without recording an out tonight. He got redemption pitching 1.2 scoreless striking out four. 

He not only kept the lead, but he allowed the Mets to blow it open for their fourth win in a row. 

The Mets got a little breathing room with a Dominic Smith two out sixth inning RBI single scoring Asdrubal Cabrera. Cabrera had led off the inning with a double. 

Cabrera’s next double plated Nori Aoki in the seventh. This followed Aoki singling home Matt Reynolds and Jacob deGrom. Reynolds was hit by a pitch, deGrom pinch hit for Josh Smoker, and both advanced on a Jose Reyes sac bunt. 
With the Mets having a 6-1 lead, it was an easy game for rookie Jamie Callahan to put to rest. It might’ve been the reps or the five run lead, but he looked more relaxed and composed. All the Mets look that way with the team playing much better of late. 

Game Notes: Amed Rosario is feeling better, and he may play tomorrow v

One Last Drive

In life, we tend to get attached to and attribute meaning to bizarre things. Today, that was my car. 

Now, I hated that car. From day one, it was a nightmare. I sank more money into it than I care to admit. Driving into bad neighborhoods time and again, it was constantly dinged and scratched. Tires blown. Dents in the car. Really, I hated it. 

But you know what I didn’t hate?  All the great things I did with the car. 

What started out as a car I purchased to commute to and from work became the family car.

It was the car I drive with my wife to Pre-Cana. The day after our wedding, my wife and I drove home for the first time.  

I drove that car with my then infant son to and from doctors appointments.  That includes when I had to take him for emergency room visits, and one day his surgery. 

We took that car to take him for his first day of school, his first Mets game, his ice skating classes, soccer practice, and on family vacations. We drove that car to places where we would share some of our favorite memories as a family. We drove that car everywhere. 

Every so often, he liked to get in the front seat and pretend to drive just like his daddy:


I didn’t realize it at first, but there were hints of all those moments scattered throughout the car. I realized this as I cleaned it out today so I could trade it in for the new family car. In some ways, it felt like a moment right out of The Wonder Years

As we cleaned out the car, there were remnants of these events. Just like we had done a thousand times, we listened to the Mets game on the radio. 

You couldn’t pick a more appropriate starter than Rafael Montero. First terrible, but now you see him in a whole new light. 

This is because Montero has been a much better pitcher of late. We saw it again from him today. He cruised through five innings allowing just the one run. 

It was the sixth he got into trouble. Like his last start, he put his bullpen into a tough situation handing them a bases loaded one out situation. Unlike AJ RamosPaul Sewald, who hadn’t pitched in eight days due to some physical issues, allowed all the inherited runners to score. 

Fortunately, it didn’t matter much because the Mets offense exploded against Mark Leiter

Most of the damage came in a six run fourth inning. Even with him not hitting lead-off, Brandon Nimmo got it all started with a single. Four hits, including a Juan Lagares double and Gavin Cecchini  RBI single, and an error later the Mets were up 9-0, and the Phillies brought in Kevin Siegrist

After Siegrist issued a couple of walks, Nimmo capped off the inning with an RBI single. That single gave the Mets a then 10-0 lead. 

It proved to be an insurmountable lead. That was true even for the hurt Sewald and Hansel Robles, who had another adventurous outing. 

It was the Robles outing that had me sitting in my car just a little longer. I sat in my car a little longer like I had done several times in the past. Except this time was the last time in this car. 

As Ramos got Rhys Hoskins to fly out to end the game, I had the last memory in that car. It was a rather small one, but a memory nevertheless. 

It’s now time for a new car with new family memories. This will be the car I take my next son home from the hospital in. It’ll be the car I take to drive him to his first Mets game. Hopefully, it will be the car I drive to see the Mets in their next World Series. 

Game Notes: Kevin Plawecki was 2-4 with two runs and a stolen base. 

As Mets Always Planned, Montero And Plawecki Led Them To A Win

If you recall, there was a time when the Mets considered Rafael Montero to be a better prospect than Jacob deGrom.  Sure, it seems silly now with deGrom winning the Rookie of the Year, being an All Star, and how great he pitched in the 2015 postseason.  It seems sillier when you consider Montero has mostly been terrible with the Mets shying away from the strike zone and walking too many batters.

Recently, we have seen glimpses from Montero.  He is using that change-up, the pitch that made the Mets believe in him, more effectively.  He is also throwing strikes.  The stretch has been good, but not great.  It certainly didn’t give us any indication why the Mets thought so highly of Montero.  That was until last night’s game.

Through eight innings, Montero had allowed just one base hit to a stacked Cincinnati Reds lineup.  Even allowing for the obvious issues with the OPS statistic, the Reds lineup featured seven batters with an OPS over .800.  Two of the players, Zack Cozart and Joey Votto, were All Stars this year.  However, when you were pitching like Montero, it simply doesn’t matter.

Given the fact that you have seen Montero pitch in a Mets uniform before, it is understandable that you have to see it before you believe it.  Here is a short compliation:


Considering how Montero was pitching, you can certainly understand why Terry Collins allowed Montero to go out there for the ninth inning despite Montero having already thrown 107 pitches.  This was Montero’s night, and he earned the right to at least try to finish the game.

After retiring the pinch hitter Billy Hamilton, the Reds finally got to Montero.  Phil Ervin singled, and Cozart doubled.  With him going to the plate as the winning run, the Mets understandably intentionally walked Votto.

At that point, the Mets also put an end to 8.1 brilliant innings from Montero.  During his 117 pitch night, he had allowed just three hits and four walks while striking out eight.  The only question remaining was whether he was going to get the win.

It was a real question because the Mets had only given him a 2-0 lead with both runs coming in the first inning off of a pair of RBI doubles from Wilmer Flores and Kevin Plawecki.  By the way, if you think Montero’s emergence has been a surprise, what about Plawecki?  He has gone from a guy the Mets were probably going to seriously consider cutting from the 40 man roster this offseason to a guy who is hitting .364/.440/.591 with two doubles, a homer, and three RBI in eight games.  By the way, he also threw a scoreless inning in relief the previous night.

Getting back to the bottom of the ninth, the Reds had the bases loaded with one out.  Once again Collins eschewed Jeurys Familia in a save situation to go to AJ Ramos.  Ramos responded by striking out Adam Duvall and Scotter Gennett to end the game.

With that, the Mets now have a victory where Montero and Plawecki were key figures in the game.  In what has truly been a bizarre season, this one probably ranks up there.  If that isn’t enough for you consider this – the two have combined to throw 9.1 consecutive scoreless innings.

Game Notes: Amed Rosario got the night off.  This led the Mets to play Jose Reyes at shortstop and have him lead-off over Brandon Nimmo because that is exactly what you are supposed to do when you are trying to develop players late in the season.

Terry Collins Double Switches His Way to Double-Header Split

This was one of those days that makes you question why exactly the Mets are sticking with Terry Collins right now?  

He’s eschewing developing young players like Dominic Smith, but he makes sure to get Jose Reyes and Asdrubal Cabrera in the lineup. 

He also continues to make just poor decisions with his pitching. If you didn’t know any better, you’d expect Collins gets paid by the bullpen move, and he gets paid double for each double switch. 

He really pressures his pitching staff. Today, Collins took that to an absurd level. 

Even knowing Seth Lugo would be limited to 75 pitches in the second game of the double header, Collins ripped through his bullpen. 

Part of that was Tommy Milone only lasting 4.1 innings. The bigger part of that was Collins managing the game like it was Game 7 of the World Series to try to protect a five run lead. 

What was really irritating was Collins first ripped through the guys who could give him multiple innings – Hansel RoblesRafael Montero, and Josh Smoker. The trio combined to pitch one inning with 35 pitches. 

With all Collins histrionics, the Mets still blew the 5-0 lead. They got there because Cabrera and Flores hit a pair of homers. 

With the Mets blowing the lead, they needed another homer. Amed Rosario came through with an eighth inning homer off Joe Blanton

The Mets would hold onto the 6-5 lead with AJ Ramos getting the sixth out save to preserve the rare Mets Sunday win. Of course, to get the rare win, you needed a play you rarely if ever see. 

With Adam Lind getting the two out single to extend the game, Edwin Jackson pinch ran for him with Daniel Murphy coming to the plate as the go-ahead run. 

Murphy ripped a liner above a leaping Cabrera. Travis Taijeron, who had some on in one of the multitude of double switches, overran the ball, and Jackson broke towards home. 

Juan Lagares adeptly backup up Taijeron on the play. He then made a strong throw to Cabrera, who in turn, made a strong throw  to Travis d’Arnaud. With the tag, the Mets cut down Jackson, and the Mets won the game on your typical 9-8-4-2 put out. 
After this game, the question was whether the Mets pitching staff had enough bullets left to pull out a win in the nightcap. The answer was a resounding no.

The Mets had rallied from a 2-0 deficit to take a 3-2 lead in the second game.  

Lagares knocked in the first run on an RBI double. He then came home to score on a Brandon Nimmo two run homer to give the Mets a 3-2 lead. It was short-lived. 

After Lugo went 3.2 innings allowing two runs, Smoker came on, and he kept the Nationals at bay in his 1.1 innings of work. 

Then came Robles in his second appearance on the day. After getting a Murphy line out, the Nationals had a runner on first with one out. 

Robles continued by walking the first four batters allowing the Nationals to not only tie the game, but also take a lead. On the bright side, Collins double-switched Smith out of the game meaning he was willing to sacrifice development to win this one game. 

Things could’ve been worse, but Chasen Bradford enduced Howie Kendrick to hit into the inning ending 4-4-3 double play. 

Ultimately, it didn’t matter. Erik Goeddel pitched the eighth, and Lind took him deep to give the Nationals a 5-3 lead. The insurance run loomed large with the Mets rallying in the ninth off Sean Doolittle

d’Arnaud led off with a pinch hit single, and Gavin Cecchini singled to move d’Arnaud to second. With a 0-2 count, Reyes dropped a single right in front of Taylor allowing d’Arnaud to score to pull the Mets within one. 

The tomfoolery ended with a Lagares line out to Alejandro De Aza

Collins did everything he could to win both ends of the double header even if it meant eschewing his main responsibility right now- developing players. He didn’t care what he did to the bullpen. For all that effort, he just had a split to show for it. 

Game Notes: Kevin McGowan was activated for the second half double-header as the 26th man. He would not pitch. 

Conforto Shoulder Dislocates Itself And Our Hope

Rafael Montero pitched much better than the score indicated with him getting dinked and dunked for the three runs he did allow.  Yoenis Cespedes is hitting for power once again with him hitting a double and a homer in the game.  Amed Rosario completed a nifty unassisted double play on a liner up the middle.  Kevin Plawecki threw out a base stealer.  Gavin Cecchini reached twice and scored a run.  In the end none of this happens because this happened to Michael Conforto:

Early returns are Conforto suffered a dislocated shoulder on the play leading Ron Darling to talk about his own history with shoulder dislocations letting us all know they tend to be chronic.  It’s a good thing too because watching it happen certainly wasn’t depressing enough.

Just to let you know how bizarre a season it has been for Mets fans, Mets fans were actually relieved this was just a dislocation.  They were understandably anticipating an amputation.  You could just envision the scene in the clubhouse with the Mets covering Conforto with leeches and getting him drunk on whiskey before giving him a bit to chomp on before Ray Ramirez came over with the saw.

Likely, this was Conforto’s last game of the season meaning he’s not getting to 30 homers this season.  We also don’t get to see him finish off what was a brilliant season for him.  We can only hope the Mets don’t mess this one up like they have with Matt Harvey time and again.

Overall, the Mets lost this game 3-2, but who cares?  The real loss here was Conforto.

Game Notes: With a doubleheader on Sunday, the Mets are hoping Seth Lugo can start in the second game.  If his bullpen does not go well tomorrow, the Mets will call Marcos Molina up from Double-A.  If he does get called-up, he will join Chris Flexen in getting called straight up from Binghamton to start a game for the Mets.

Montero Wins – Yes, Seriously, He Did

In his major league career, Rafael Montero had a staggering 2-13 record. You’d be hard-pressed to say that record was the result of his team failing to pick him up. To be fair, he’s usually been so poor, he never really gave his teammates a chance. That wasn’t the case tonight. 

Montero was great for five innings allowing the Marlins to just four hits and two walks. He then ran into some issues in the sixth beginning with the opposing pitcher, Vance Worley, getting a lead-off single. 

The Marlins then got a trade-off they take every day of the week with a Dee Gordon, who hit a fly ball Brandon Nimmo couldn’t get, but he was still able to get Worley at second. 

After a Giancarlo Stanton walk and a Christian Yelich strikeout, Montero was on the cusp of getting out of the inning unscathed. 

He seemed like he did when Marcel Ozuna hit a ball to left. Mets fans thought Yoenis Cespedes could get it. Keith Hernandez gave him a pass. In any event, it was 1-0, and the way Worley was going, it seemed like that was all the Marlins needed. 

That changed when Matt Reynolds pinch hit for Montero and earned a lead-off walk. That walk ignited the Mets offense. 

After the walk, Nimmo singled to set up runners at the corners with no outs. Asdrubal Cabrera then tied the game with a deep fly ball to right. 

Don Mattingly tried to stem the tide by bringing in Drew Steckenrider. It didn’t work. 
Runners were at the corners again after a Cespedes single and a Steckenrider wild pitch. In a tough at-bat, Michael Conforto hit a hard grounder that ate up Marlins shortstop Miguel Rojas giving the Mets a 2-1 lead. 

That became a 5-1 lead when Wilmer Flores hit a three run homer. 

If you thought the three run homer by Flores off a right was a surprise, the ensuing two run homer by Kevin Plawecki was a downright shock. 

That Plawecki homer put the cap on a seven run inning where the Mets batted around. It also put Montero in line to win just his third game of his career. With him getting two wins this year, this is his first major league season with more than just one win. 

After that, we got to see why Dominic Smith is so well regarded by the Mets. 

In the eighth, he made a diving stop to rob Yelich of a potential extra base hit . . .

. . . and he followed that with his first homer at Citi Field. 

He absolutely clobbered that ball hitting it beyond what were the original fences. 

Between Hansel Robles and Chasen Bradford, the Mets locked down the 8-1 win. 

By the way, for all of the Mets refusal to have even a decent defense, the team turned five double plays. The defense did its part, and as you see, when you’re this good defensively, even Montero looks very good. 

Game Notes: Rene Rivera was claimed off waivers by the Cubs. With him a Cub, and Curtis Granderson a Dodger, the Mets were able to call up Plawecki and activate Tommy Milone from the DL.  

Montero Wins – Yes, Seriously, He Did

In his major league career, Rafael Montero had a staggering 2-13 record. You’d be hard-pressed to say that record was the result of his team failing to pick him up. To be fair, he’s usually been so poor, he never really gave his teammates a chance. That wasn’t the case tonight. 

Montero was great for five innings allowing the Marlins to just four hits and two walks. He then ran into some issues in the sixth beginning with the opposing pitcher, Vance Worley, getting a lead-off single. 

The Marlins then got a trade-off they take every day of the week with a Dee Gordon, who hit a fly ball Brandon Nimmo couldn’t get, but he was still able to get Worley at second. 

After a Giancarlo Stanton walk and a Christian Yelich strikeout, Montero was on the cusp of getting out of the inning unscathed. 

He seemed like he did when Marcel Ozuna hit a ball to left. Mets fans thought Yoenis Cespedes could get it. Keith Hernandez gave him a pass. In any event, it was 1-0, and the way Worley was going, it seemed like that was all the Marlins needed. 

That changed when Matt Reynolds pinch hit for Montero and earned a lead-off walk. That walk ignited the Mets offense. 

After the walk, Nimmo singled to set up runners at the corners with no outs. Asdrubal Cabrera then tied the game with a deep fly ball to right. 

Don Mattingly tried to stem the tide by bringing in Drew Steckenrider. It didn’t work. 
Runners were at the corners again after a Cespedes single and a Steckenrider wild pitch. In a tough at-bat, Michael Conforto hit a hard grounder that ate up Marlins shortstop Miguel Rojas giving the Mets a 2-1 lead. 

That became a 5-1 lead when Wilmer Flores hit a three run homer. 

If you thought the three run homer by Flores off a right was a surprise, the ensuing two run homer by Kevin Plawecki was a downright shock. 

That Plawecki homer put the cap on a seven run inning where the Mets batted around. It also put Montero in line to win just his third game of his career. With him getting two wins this year, this is his first major league season with more than just one win. 

After that, we got to see why Dominic Smith is so well regarded by the Mets. 

In the eighth, he made a diving stop to rob Yelich of a potential extra base hit . . .

. . . and he followed that with his first homer at Citi Field. 

He absolutely clobbered that ball hitting it beyond what were the original fences. 

Between Hansel Robles and Chasen Bradford, the Mets locked down the 7-1 win. 

By the way, for all of the Mets refusal to have even a decent defense, the team turned five double plays. The defense did its part, and as you see, when you’re this good defensively, even Montero looks very good. 

Game Notes: Rene Rivera was claimed off waivers by the Cubs. With him a Cub, and Curtis Granderson a Dodger, the Mets were able to call up Plawecki and activate Tommy Milone from the DL.