There have been few bright spots for the Mets this season, but oddly enough Rafael Montero has, at times, been one of them. That’s hard to figure for a guy who came into Wednesday night’s game with a 76 ERA+, but things have improved for him over his last couple of starts. And that went to another level on Wednesday night in what was inarguably the best start of his career.
The Mets’ offense didn’t do much in this game, but they did get Montero an early lead. Jose Reyes doubled to lead off the first, and then after two outs, Wilmer Flores brought him home with a double of his own. Kevin Plawecki came up next and hit the third double of the inning to bring home Flores. After the blowout a night earlier, you probably figured the offense would need several more runs to seal the victory, but if so, you figured wrong.
In fact, the Mets only had two more hits the whole game, one from Brandon Nimmo and another from Asdrubal Cabrera. That meant little, though, because the Reds offense couldn’t put anything together against Montero. Through eight innings, he only ran into a bit of trouble in the fourth, allowing a double to Joey Votto and then walking Adam Duvall. Next up came Scooter Gennett, who grounded into a double play to end the frame. After that, Montero surrendered two walks and nothing more, and Terry Collins gave him a chance to seal a one-hit gem in the bottom of the ninth.
He got out number twenty-five, but he ran out of gas and into trouble after that. Phillip Ervin hit a single, then Zack Cozart doubled down the left field line to put the tying run in scoring position. Collins order an intentional walk of Votto to load the bases as he called upon A.J. Ramos, potentially putting Montero on the hook for the loss.
Ramos made that a moot point, striking out the next two batters to seal the deal and put the icing on the cake for Montero. As the Mets continue to search for back-end starters as they look ahead to 2018, the 26-year-old might be making a case for himself. Since his nightmarish start against the Rangers, he’s tossed three quality starts. It’s a small sample size to be sure, but in a season with plenty of questions, maybe Montero can be one of the answers.
SB Nation GameThreads
Win Probability Added
Big winners: A.J. Ramos, +33.4 WPA, Rafael Montero, +30.1 WPA
Big loser: none
Teh aw3s0mest play: A.J. Ramos strikes out Scooter Gennett in the ninth inning, +17.7% WPA
Teh sux0rest play: Zack Cozart doubles in the ninth inning, -18.4% WPA
Total pitcher WPA: +63.5 WPA
Total batter WPA: -13.5 WPA
GWRBI!: Wilmer Flores