Montas delivers gutsy outing after shaky first

June 22nd, 2021

Frankie Montas’ final line in the A’s 8-3 loss to the Rangers on Monday at Globe Life Field doesn’t paint a pretty picture. Eight earned runs, a season-high, across 5 2/3 innings. Nine hits, tying a season-high. Two home runs allowed, both of the three-run variety. For all intents and purposes, it was a shaky start. 

But Montas’ final line alone, however, doesn’t fully encapsulate how his start unfolded. The right-hander’s start was a three-act narrative structure -- albeit one that diverted from the traditional model --one that’s best viewed by examining the individual chunks. 

“His stat line doesn’t look so good, but the kind of guts he showed to go on and keep pitching five more innings after that was awesome,” said catcher Sean Murphy.

Act I: The Woeful Beginning 

Montas’ evening could not have begun any worse as the Rangers jumped all over Montas to begin the game, tagging him for five runs on five hits in the first inning.  

After retiring Isiah Kiner-Falefa to begin the game, here’s what unfolded: Brock Holt singled. Adolis García doubled off the center-field wall, scoring Holt. Joey Gallo walked. Nate Lowe doubled, scoring García. Andy Ibáñez provided the final blow -- a three-run shot that missed the second deck for his first career long ball. 

Before the first inning ended, Montas would throw 24 pitches. Any shot at recording a third consecutive quality outing seemed gone. Now, the question turned to how many more innings he could provide. 

“They made some good swings,” said manager Bob Melvin. “Hit the ball the other way, had him on the run early. A lot of times with a starter, you can get him before he gets into his rhythm.” 

Act II: Redemption 

Montas wasn’t quite ready to throw in the towel. From the first inning onward, Montas’ goal was simple: eat innings. He needed to get deep into the ballgame, so as to not tax the bullpen.  

During innings two through five, Montas looked like a completely different pitcher. He found the rhythm. He hit his spots. He was economical with his pitches. It was as if the first inning never happened. In these four innings, he only allowed a hit and a walk, but nothing more. 

“The other innings, I was just being a little more careful,” Montas said. “I was trying to hit my spots and stay on location.” 

Act III: The Bitter End 

If Montas could get through the sixth inning, he’d have himself a somewhat decent outing, all things considered Oddly enough, Montas was in position to outlast opposing starter Kyle Gibson, whose night, up until that point, unfolded in the opposite fashion. 

Gibson cruised along through the first five innings, the only blip on his line heading into the sixth inning was a solo shot to Murphy. In the sixth, however, the cracks began to show. Matt Olson and Ramón Laureano opened up with back-to-back doubles, plating a run. After a one-out single by Jed Lowrie, Gibson was out.

Montas did, indeed, outlast Gibson. But like Gibson, Montas did not get through the sixth inning.

The frame started off innocently enough. Montas got two quick outs, retiring Lowe and Ibáñez on groundouts. Then, trouble.

Willie Calhoun singled. Eli White got plunked. With runners on first and second, pitching coach Scott Emerson came out for a mound visit.

Montas left a fastball middle and in for Jose Trevino, who delivered the second three-run homer of the night, ruining Montas’ miniature night of redemption. But Melvin defended his pitcher after the game.

“That’s my fault for letting him give up three runs right there,” Melvin said. “He was cruising along. Two outs, nobody on. Gets a baserunner, and I get somebody up and he hits a guy and gives up a three-run home run. That’s my fault that he gave up the extra three runs.”

While there was some good mixed in with the whole lot of bad, the outing was ultimately a step back for Montas, who had been trending in the right direction. Coming into the game, Montas had a 3.51 ERA in his last nine starts and a 2.63 ERA in his last four starts. By evening’s end, however, his ERA had ballooned 58 points.

All in all, it was an odd night for Montas. Up until tonight, he’d been pitching some of his best baseball of the season. Maybe tonight was just an outlier, and going forward, his starts follow a more linear narrative.