Montas can't right ship as A's drop twin bill

August 30th, 2020

The A’s probably would not be sweating a poor three-game stretch from in a normal season. A poor three-game stretch during a 60-game regular season? That might be a cause for concern.

For a third consecutive start, Montas did not look like himself. The A’s Opening Day starter was roughed up by the Astros, allowing five runs and lasting just 3 1/3 innings in a 6-3 loss in the second game of Saturday’s doubleheader at Minute Maid Park. Swept in the twin bill, Oakland’s lead atop the American League West standings shrunk to 2 1/2 games over second-place Houston.

“We don’t want to lose two games. It didn’t feel good,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “You go through stretches during the course of the season when there’s some adversity. This is one of those days. We’ll come back tomorrow and try to take one of these three.”

You may want to look away at the numbers about to be presented on Montas’ past three outings. Since beginning his campaign with a superb 1.57 ERA over his first four starts, Montas is now 0-2 with a 16.76 ERA over his last three starts. He has not gone past the fifth inning in any of those three.

An early 1-0 A’s lead on Ramón Laureano’s leadoff homer off Zack Greinke to begin the game was short-lived as Montas struggled to find his command in a 37-pitch first inning that culminated with a three-run triple by Kyle Tucker. Montas later surrendered a two-run blast to George Springer in the second that extended Houston’s lead to 5-1 before getting pulled with one out in the fourth, allowing five runs on six hits and two walks.

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“He’s still not quite there with his mechanics,” Melvin said. “You see some good sliders and some good splits, but also bad ones. They got on him early. Still working to find some consistency. He’s fighting himself a little bit.”

A link to Montas’ recent struggles could come in the timing of the stretch. His three bad starts have all come after missing his scheduled start on Aug. 14 at San Francisco with upper back tightness.

Montas said he feels healthy. As for his struggles, he feels it has come down to poor location of his pitches. The splitter that resulted in Tucker’s triple and the fastball that Springer crushed for a homer both caught more of the plate than Montas was trying for.

“I was missing my spots a lot and they’re a really good team. You can’t make mistakes against them,” Montas said. “It’s just about location. I have to make better pitches.”

Following the acquisition of Tommy La Stella in a deal with the Angels on Friday night, A’s general manager David Forst mentioned that he remains in trade talks with multiple clubs ahead of Monday's Trade Deadline. Given Montas’ tough stretch, and Chris Bassit’s rough outing in a 4-2 defeat in the first game, those talks could intensify, centering around help for the starting rotation.

“We continue to have conversations and will through the weekend for opportunities to add to the club,” Forst said Friday night. “If we can help them out along the way, that would be great.”

Speaking of La Stella, he arrived in Houston on Saturday afternoon in time to make his A’s debut in the second game of the doubleheader. The newcomer got the start at second base and went 0-for-3 with an RBI groundout.

“I’ve admired these guys for some time playing across the diamond,” La Stella said. “Playing against them the last couple of years, you knew you were in for a tough series playing the A’s. I always really enjoyed it as a fan of the game. Getting to be a part of it is really exciting.”