NEW YORK -- Rafael Montero stood in front of his locker dressed in a king-like robe and crown, the reward Mets players designate for the player of the game after wins.Montero deserved this garb. He allowed one run over six innings in the Mets' 8-1 win over the Marlins on
NEW YORK -- Rafael Montero stood in front of his locker dressed in a king-like robe and crown, the reward Mets players designate for the player of the game after wins.
Montero deserved this garb. He allowed one run over six innings in the Mets' 8-1 win over the Marlins on Saturday night at Citi Field, snapping a five-game skid for the home team.
The crown fit great, Montero said through an interpreter.
"Very pretty," he added.
The right-hander breezed through five scoreless innings before the Marlins rallied for a two-out run on Marcel Ozuna's RBI single in the sixth. But Montero rebounded and struck out J.T. Realmuto on the eighth pitch of the at-bat -- a changeup -- a turning point in the game according to Mets catcher Kevin Plawecki.
"He's been throwing the ball really well as of late," Plawecki said. "Tonight, he was obviously great, just getting ahead of guys, using all of his pitches really well."
In the bottom half of the inning, the previously futile Mets offense erupted for seven runs, putting Montero in line for his second win of the season. Relievers Hansel Robles and Chasen Bradford ensured that would become a reality with three scoreless innings.
Montero entered with an 0-5 record and a 6.83 ERA in six home starts this season. He secured his first home win since Sept. 10, 2014. In doing so, he avoided joining Anthony Young and Pete Schourek (both 0-7 in 1993) as the only Mets starters to open a season with six straight losing decisions at home.
Montero induced four consecutive, inning-ending double plays to propel him through his outing, each time clapping more emphatically than the last while walking toward the dugout.
"I think my sinker was working really well for me tonight," Montero said. "I was able to get a lot of double plays out of it."
It marked the second straight quality start for Montero, who seems to be turning a corner. In his last outing on Monday against the Yankees, he gave up two runs over six innings. Mets manager Terry Collins said that start was the best he'd seen him throw, in terms of pure stuff, but he'll gladly accept Saturday's performance, too.
"I really thought he pitched in, kept the ball down, had good movement on his fastballs, that's why he got all the ground balls," Collins said. "It's what we've been preaching and preaching with him, and that's pound the strike zone. When he does that, his stuff works up here."
Limiting walks was another key for Montero, Collins said, as he scattered three free passes across his outing. He only walked two versus the Yankees.
These most recent outings come after a dud of a start against Texas on Aug. 9. It followed a similar theme of regression following instances of promise. Montero has shown flashes all season, with his most recent performances the most telling sign he may actually be turning a corner.
Collins said Montero knows it's now or never for him to compete for a rotation spot, especially with the injuries that have bitten nearly every Mets starter.
"He knows that what's happened this summer with our starting pitching, that there's a possibility of a job here, especially next year," Collins said. "So he's gotta go win that job. And when you pitch like you did here tonight against a very, very good lineup, those are the kind of guys you want in your rotation."
Chris Bumbaca is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York.