ARLINGTON -- Rangers manager Bruce Bochy always says everything starts with the guy you have starting on the mound. So in a matchup of formidable starting pitchers between Texas’ Jordan Montgomery and Seattle’s Logan Gilbert, the Rangers just needed to have the better guy.
Montgomery made his third consecutive seven-inning start, holding the Mariners scoreless while allowing five hits and two walks. He has allowed one run in 21 innings over his past three outings.
- Games remaining (8): vs. SEA (1); at LAA (3); at SEA (4)
- Standings update: The Rangers (86-68) lead the AL West by 1 1/2 games over the Astros (85-70) and two games over the Mariners (84-70).
- Tiebreakers: Lose vs. Houston; win vs. Toronto; win vs. Seattle (with a win on Saturday, Texas secured the series win over the Mariners)
“He’s been outstanding, hasn’t he?” said Bochy. “He’s throwing quality strikes with all four pitches, and he's staying in command with a good tempo out there. Seven solid innings. He had to work a little bit harder tonight, but still got us through seven. Just a great effort, and we needed it with their guy throwing well too. It was a well-pitched game on both sides and a lot of good things happened during that game, but it all starts with Monty.”
Adolis García was responsible for most of the Rangers’ offensive production against Gilbert, scoring both runs on a Mitch Garver single in the second inning and a Jonah Heim single in the fourth. Texas had consistent traffic on the basepaths, but Seattle limited the damage as much as possible as the Rangers went 2-for-8 with runners in scoring position, stranding seven.
“It's very stressful for me,” Heim said, laughing, when asked about pitchers’ duels. “But we knew that coming into this series, it was going to be a lot of low-scoring games, because you see their [staff’s] numbers, what they put up all year. We knew that coming in, and I think it just came down to good game planning, and we've executed it thus far.”
Montgomery said he didn’t feel like his stuff was quite as good as it has been in recent weeks, but Heim disagreed, noting that they executed the game plan to near perfection.
The Mariners are a good fastball-hitting team, so Montgomery threw just 17 four-seamers and 30 sinkers -- typically his most-used pitch. He mixed in a healthy amount of curveballs (30) and changeups (25), a more even mix than he typically features.
“They hit the fastball really well, especially when they can get their hands extended,” Montgomery said. “So we tried to stay out of their honey hole as much as we could. I just thought everything was a tick worse this game. The curveball didn’t look as sharp, but later I got synced up and started to mix the pitches.”
“We knew we had to fill up the strike zone with some offspeed and get them off [the fastball],” Heim added. “And then we sprinkled in some heaters in some different counts and it paid off for him. It worked. Kudos to him, he made some adjustments when maybe he fell behind some guys and got right back into counts. He stayed out of damage and made some quality pitches.”
Montgomery has been especially good since coming over to the Rangers at the Trade Deadline, posting a 2.92 ERA in 10 starts. But his outings over the past three weeks have shown exactly why Texas decided to trade for him in the first place. Bochy credited his confidence and competitiveness for his consistency shining over the last month.
And as the division race has tightened -- with Texas, Houston and Seattle all within two games of each other over the last month -- Montgomery has come out for his start each time and put the Rangers in position to win.
“That's why you do it,” Montgomery said. “It's fun. Especially once you can settle in. I’m always nervous the first couple innings, but once you're just out there, it’s only you and Jonah and you see mitt, that's when baseball is fun.”