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Montgomery flashes no-hit stuff in fill-in start

MLB.com @CarrieMuskat

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Mike Montgomery is the super utility man of the Cubs' pitching staff.

On Tuesday, the left-hander made his 13th start, a last-minute switch after being in the bullpen over the weekend, and threw five no-hit innings before serving up a solo home run to Brad Miller. That's all the offense the Rays got in Chicago's 2-1 win at Tropicana Field.

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Mike Montgomery is the super utility man of the Cubs' pitching staff.

On Tuesday, the left-hander made his 13th start, a last-minute switch after being in the bullpen over the weekend, and threw five no-hit innings before serving up a solo home run to Brad Miller. That's all the offense the Rays got in Chicago's 2-1 win at Tropicana Field.

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"That's the best I've seen him since I've been here," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said of the left-hander, who struck out six and did not walk a batter over six innings. "He was maintaining a lot of 92 [mph], hitting his spots, throwing strikes, curveball was pertinent. ... He was assertive in the zone."

Chicago's Kyle Schwarber, who hit a solo homer, was impressed.

"He kept throwing strikes and was keeping guys off-balance with the offspeed and choosing times to freeze them with the heater," Schwarber said of Montgomery. "It was a good outing and what we needed. We just have to keep our heads down and go from there."

Tweet from @Cubs: #Excellent pic.twitter.com/8Y07kCPXgk

Montgomery's start gave the Cubs a solid substitute while Jake Arrieta nurses a right hamstring strain. Montgomery has also subbed for Kyle Hendricks and Jon Lester when they were injured at different times during the season. And he has made 28 relief appearances.

Most pitchers prefer routines. Montgomery has never complained.

"It's tough," Montgomery admitted. "It's not the easiest thing. You adapt to it. Today, in the second inning, when I found my rhythm, it was the first time I've felt like that in a few weeks. I think a lot of that was fatigue and it being late in the year. It was nice to finally feel that fresh arm and legs and be able to get after it and throw the pitches where I wanted to.

"The last couple weeks, I've been battling that. It's baseball, and you try to stay in that stage and minimize the time you feel out of sync. The off-day [Monday] helped and not starting helped get me a little more fresh and ready to go."

Montgomery hit Kevin Kiermaier with a pitch to start the game and Steven Souza Jr. reached on a throwing error by shortstop Addison Russell with one out in the fourth, but those were the only baserunners until Miller's homer with one out in the sixth.

"The first inning, I felt a little erratic and trying to find my delivery and timing," Montgomery said. "The second inning, it came together and then it was just going with the game plan. Everything seemed to be working."

Video: CHC@TB: Montgomery loses no-hit bid on Miller's homer

In June 2015 while with the Mariners, Montgomery threw 6 1/3 no-hit innings against the Padres.

"I know if I go out there and I execute, good things can happen," Montgomery said. "You never think too much about a no-hitter before a game. I've been in that position before, and I've had one in seven, so I kind of know that feeling. Really, it's just about executing pitches and relying on the defense. We made some good plays."

Montgomery has done well in relief. After all, he picked up his first career save in Game 7 of the World Series.

"It's been an interesting year, for sure," Montgomery said. "I feel ready for anything after how this year has gone."

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat.

Chicago Cubs, Mike Montgomery