There is joy in this moment for Rafael Montero after the long and winding road it took to get here after the former hyped prospect made his major-league debut on May 14, 2014.
It was a difficult enough path on Saturday night alone as the 26-year-old fought through some command issues and didn’t have his changeup, but the righthander managed to keep Cincinnati at bay by allowing one run in five innings in the Mets’ 6-1 win over the Reds, giving him his first three-game winning streak in the big leagues.
Though he walked five batters for the second straight start and has walked 14 over his three-game streak, Terry Collins said he was more pleased that Montero navigated his way through the hiccups while throwing 97 pitches and giving up four hits than concerned about control issues.
“We talk about this time of year with some of the other guys, this is the first time Rafy has pitched as much as he has at this level all the way through the season,” Collins said of Montero, who’s up to 101 2/3 major-league innings plus 29 at Triple-A Las Vegas. “He didn’t have his good changeup today, really didn’t have the best command of his slider. So the fact that he gave us five, he threw a lot of pitches but he limited the damage and that was impressive.”
Rafael Montero has his first three-game winning streak in the big leagues.
(Corey Perrine/Getty Images)
At times it seemed like it would just never work out for Montero, but over his last six starts he is 4-1 with a 2.75 ERA, which followed a stretch of five starts over which he had a 6.49 ERA. He has at least five strikeouts in eight of his last nine starts and 11 of his last 13.
With all the uncertainty in the Mets’ rotation because of health issues, if Montero can remain relatively consistent through the end of the season perhaps he’ll have a chance at proving he belongs next spring.
“I know I threw a lot of pitches through five innings, but I know there’s ups and downs,” Montero said through an interpreter. “I’m happy for my first three-game winning streak in the majors.”
Montero allowed his only run Saturday night on a sacrifice fly in the second inning, during which he gave up two hits and two walks. He walked two more in the third, allowed two baserunners in the fourth and a single in the fifth but didn’t allow another run to cross.
“Definitely one of the tougher nights he’s had over his last few starts, for sure,” said Kevin Plawecki, whose two-run homer in the second gave the Mets a lead they never relinquished. “It was good to see him bear down in those situations and get out of it.”