Although there are many things to celebrate right now (the offense finally cut loose, the Brewers lost again, the Cubs are finally getting their off-day in, etc.), Mike Montgomery deserves some love for his effort last night, and I’m here to give it to him.
In what was his 17th start of the season – See, Mike? We said you’d get plenty of chances! – Montgomery did not disappoint: 6.0 IP, 4H, 1ER, 1BB, 8Ks.
By game score (63), that was his third best start of the season, trailing only a scoreless effort in Kansas City at the beginning of August, and another scoreless outing in Pittsburgh back in May. In fact, he’s made only 10 better starts in his entire career than the one he made last night against the Diamondbacks.
And not unlike Kyle Hendricks the night before him, Montgomery got things done by missing a ton of bats.
It hasn’t always been Montgomery’s thing, but, by the end of the night, the lefty had netted a whopping 16 whiffs, good for a 16.0% swinging strike rate, his fifth best of the season. And he sure made all those whiffs count. Despite facing only 24 batters, Montgomery struck out 8 guys, which is good for a 33.3% strikeout rate (#math). He also walked only one batter, which made him look even sharper.
As expected, his changeup (12 whiffs!) did most of the heavy lifting, but his fastball did bounce back (in terms of velocity) after dropping a bit since returning from a brief DL stint in late August.
As for the quality of the contact made last night, Montgomery could’ve used a few more grounders and a little more soft contact, but he did a nice job of limiting any hard-hit balls, which is great. Montgomery remains a guy who will probably always be at his best when he’s getting grounders and weak contact. It’s just that last night, he had D-backs batters swinging for their life.
And you know what? That’s almost the exact same thing we said about Hendricks the day before. Both guys are typically reliant on contact management to get through a start, but both guys used their changeup to whiff their way to success. You have to wonder if the Diamondbacks quickly evaporating chances of playing in October is forcing some guys to press at the plate (i.e. get overly aggressive and swing too much/hard), and/or if the D-Backs just have a lot of guys who are susceptible to offspeed pitches. If Hendricks exploited that two nights ago, I’m sure he and the Cubs’ pitching infrastructure crew told Hendricks’ fellow changeup artist to try something similar last night.
I wonder if we’ll see Cole Hamels lean on his changeup tonight?
As a member of the rotation this season, Mike Montgomery has earned a 3.35 ERA through 17 starts and 91.1 IP. He’s paired those excellent results with an equally solid 3.78 FIP, a 48.1% ground ball rate, and a 27.4% fly ball rate. In all likelihood (given the way the rest of the staff has been pitching lately), Montgomery will not get a start in the postseason. But those are very solid numbers and he should be proud of the season he’s delivered. The Cubs remain lucky to have him.
And we know he can contribute in the bullpen in the postseason …