KANSAS CITY -- Mike Montgomery was a first-round pick by the Royals in the 2008 MLB Draft, but he never pitched for the team, and the left-hander began this season in the Cubs' bullpen.
David Bote, an 18th-round Draft pick in 2012 by the Cubs, didn't expect to be playing in the big leagues this season, not with Kristopher Bryant at third base.
Both Montgomery and Bote made the most of their opportunities on Tuesday night. Bote smacked a two-run triple and an RBI single for a career-high three RBIs to back Montgomery and power the Cubs to a 5-0 Interleague victory at Kauffman Stadium.
It was the Cubs' 12th shutout of the season, four more than they had last year.
Montgomery improved to 3-0 with a 0.40 ERA in four career appearances (three starts) against the Royals. Was the lefty a little more motivated?
"I think it's a coincidence," Montgomery said. "Sometimes you just have a team you do well against, and it just happens to be them. You have that edge against them. It's just one of those things -- the team that drafted you, you always want to pitch well against them."
Montgomery made his 13th start in place of the injured Yu Darvish, who is scheduled to throw a BP session on Wednesday. Montgomery threw six-plus scoreless innings, scattering five hits. He went out for the seventh, but he served up a leadoff single to Raul Mondesi and was lifted. The Cubs' rotation has been roughed up this season and this was only the seventh quality start in 20 games since the All-Star break.
"It's probably the best off speed stuff I've had," Montgomery said. "I thought today, they were good and an aggressive hitting team. It was a good matchup against these guys."
The Cubs like how well Montgomery has handled starting, but they also want to be careful with his innings. After all, he's the pitcher who got his first career save in Game 7 of the 2016 World Series.
"You still want to be proactive," manager Joe Maddon said. "You look at the innings and you're looking for a successful conclusion this year. Down the road for the guy, you don't want to overload it. We're still talking about it. I think his confidence is at a high right now."
Bote, subbing for Bryant, who is sidelined with a sore left shoulder, delivered a two-run triple with two out in the first and added an RBI single with two out in the fifth. The rookie is now batting .429 (15-for-35) in his last 14 big league games with an at-bat.
"He comes ready. He's eager. Great teammate. He wants the Cubs to win, that's all he wants," Maddon said. "He's been showing that [he's a Major League player] all along. He's been available to ride this shuttle, but he's shown right now how valuable he actually is."
The triple in the first was huge.
"I thought it was really fortunate we got those two runs against [Royals starter Brad Keller] when we did," Maddon said. "Then we scraped two more out. He's good. Bote's at-bat, I would say the biggest at-bat of the evening."
Bote liked the idea of giving Montgomery a cushion early in the game. Maddon says the 25-year-old infielder isn't afraid. Is he?
"It's just trusting my ability, trusting what my preparation is," Bote said. "It's kind of morphed over the years. I'm just going after it.
"The nerves are always there, the adrenaline is there," he said. "Being able to use that in a positive way is key -- being able to use those emotions and see a good avenue and attack the baseball or 'I'm ready for this pitch.' It's being able to make a positive spin on it and executing it."
With the win, the Cubs secured a series victory and improved to 10-4 against American League teams.
MOMENT THAT MATTERED
It was an interesting first inning for the Cubs. With one out, Javier Baez singled and reached third on Benjamin Zobrist's double, although Baez seemed to lose track of the ball and headed back to first briefly before having to retouch the second-base bag en route to third. Jason Heyward then hit a grounder to third baseman Alcides Escobar, who eventually tagged Baez to end a rundown. Bote followed with a triple to right to give the Cubs a 2-0 lead.
Zobrist, who started in left field, was lifted from the game after five innings because his left hip tightened up. However, Maddon said after the game that Zobrist may be available to play on Wednesday. Zobrist had doubled in the first and hit a sacrifice fly in the fifth. He began the night ranked among the top five hitters in the National League, batting .313. This is Zobrist's first series in Kansas City since 2015 when he played for the Royals and helped them win the World Series. More >
"He felt something, I don't know exactly what it was," Maddon said. "He came up to me and said, 'I really can't run that well right now so be aware of that.' We took him out and [the athletic trainer] came up and told me he's feeling a lot better."
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Baez has started at second, shortstop and third, but on Tuesday, he also covered a little right field. In the Royals' first, Baez snared Rosell Herrera's popup with an over-the-shoulder catch and avoided a collision with right fielder Heyward, who slid to avoid impact. In the fourth, Baez made a similar catch of Jorge Bonifacio's popup. This time, Heyward gave him more space.
"They used to call it the 'monster' position on defense in football which means you go to where the action may be and do something about it and he did," Maddon said. "Wow, two great catches. The first one I thought was down. Heyward understanding Javy knew to peel off and give him latitude so there's not any kind of concern about collision. That's underestimated. [Heyward] did the right thing."
HE SAID IT
"I want to be in my best form in September and October. If that means cutting back innings -- I don't know. I like the way I threw tonight and we'll try to build off that." -- Montgomery
Cubs left-hander Jose Quintana (10-7, 4.12 ERA) will start the Interleague series finale against the Royals at 7:15 p.m. CT on Wednesday at Kauffman Stadium. The Cubs have stressed the importance of throwing first-pitch strikes to Quintana and he listened, getting a win over the Padres. Against the Royals, Quintana is 3-9 with a 4.05 ERA in 24 starts. The last time he faced them in May 2017, he threw eight shutout innings. Kansas City will counter with righty Heath Fillmyer (0-1, 3.86 ERA).