CINCINNATI -- Supremely talented, yet maddeningly erratic, Rafael Montero has spent the past four years perplexing the Mets with his flashes of brilliance and inability to maintain them. Perhaps, finally, his unevenness has come to an end. Montero continued his most consistent run as a big leaguer with 8 1/3
CINCINNATI -- Supremely talented, yet maddeningly erratic, Rafael Montero has spent the past four years perplexing the Mets with his flashes of brilliance and inability to maintain them. Perhaps, finally, his unevenness has come to an end. Montero continued his most consistent run as a big leaguer with 8 1/3 shutout innings Wednesday, leading the Mets to a 2-0 win over the Reds at Great American Ball Park.
"I've regained the confidence that I had when I was in the Minor Leagues," Montero said through an interpreter. "I think that confidence is definitely back."
Striking out eight and allowing just one hit through eight innings, Montero was uncharacteristically efficient against the Reds, prompting manager Terry Collins to send his starter out for the ninth at 104 pitches. But the decision backfired when Montero allowed consecutive one-out hits to put the tying runs in scoring position, putting the best start of his career in jeopardy.
Interim closer AJ Ramos recorded the final two outs to secure the victory for Montero, who improved to 3-5 with a 4.22 ERA over 11 starts since joining the rotation in June.
"It's been kind of building the past month, month and a half or so," Mets catcher Kevin Plawecki said. "Confidence is everything and I think he's taken off from that, and keeps leaping toward each and every start, building off the last. I'm happy for him."
The Mets received all the offense they would need on consecutive first-inning RBI doubles from Wilmer Flores and Plawecki.
Allowing nothing else in six innings, Cincinnati's Homer Bailey submitted his first quality start since Aug. 1. But it wasn't enough for Bailey to avoid taking his fifth loss in his last seven decisions, in large part because the Reds did not record their first hit against Montero until the fourth.
"It's a strange game," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "You score 14 runs one day, then the next day you have one hit after eight innings against a rookie with an ERA in the 5s."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Early offense: Typically daring on the basepaths, Jose Reyes nearly ran the Mets out of an inning when he stole third base with two outs in the first. Moments later, Flores and Plawecki hit back-to-back RBI doubles to give the Mets a 2-0 lead on Bailey.
White-knuckled ending: Because of how well Montero pitched through eight innings, Collins chose to send his starter back out for the ninth at 104 pitches. But trouble quickly followed, when a pair of hits and an intentional walk loaded the bases with one out. Collins turned from there to Ramos, who froze Adam Duvall on a front-door slider before getting Scooter Gennett to chase a 3-2 breaking ball out of the zone. Plawecki pumped his fist as the final pitch smacked into his mitt.
"I wanted it for Montero and wanted it for us," Plawecki said. "He pitched a heck of a game. The last thing we wanted there was to somehow let them come back and tie it, or take the lead and win it. I was mainly fired up just from the game that Montero had, but also Ramos made some really big pitches there."
"He really thinks he's got a home in the rotation, and he should think that. He's pitched as good as anybody." -- Collins, on Montero
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
For just the 104th time in 1,201 games at Great American Ball Park, neither team hit a home run. Seven of those homerless games have occurred this season.
Mets: Right-hander Jacob deGrom (14-7, 3.39 ERA) looks to bolster his National League Cy Young Award credentials Thursday, when the Mets return to Great American Ball Park for a 12:35 p.m. ET series finale. Over his last 14 starts, deGrom is 10-4 with a 2.41 ERA.
Reds: The series with the Mets concludes Thursday at Great American Ball Park. Right-hander Robert Stephenson (2-4, 5.81 ERA) will start for Cincinnati, putting his 2.20 ERA in three August starts on the line.
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Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2008. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.
Andy Call is a contributor to MLB.com based in Cincinnati.