The Mets gambled that Rafael Montero could tame the second-best offense in baseball. Didn’t happen. Nationals 8, Mets 1.
Discussion and Analysis
Mat Latos was cut by the White Sox after posting a 7.25 ERA from April 30 through June 7. In two relief appearances for Washington, Latos’ 7.71 ERA was even worse. Yet the Las Vegas sports-industrial complex made the Latos-led Nationals 58% favorites at home last night against the Mets. Granted, Washington’s been nine games better this season and had home-field advantage. But last night, a terrible pitcher was favored against another playoff-caliber team because the Mets threw a starting pitcher for whom scouts need not differentiate between command and control. Las Vegas linemakers had four years to watch Rafael Montero pitch for the Mets’ Triple-A affiliate, to say nothing of Montero’s two big-league starts this season in which he walked 10 in his 9.1 innings. Turns out the bookies overestimated Montero’s inability to locate the strike zone.
Montero never had a chance to get comfortable on the mound. Trea Turner topped a slow ground ball to shortstop in the Nationals’ first at-bat. Asdrubal Cabrera successfully bare-handed the ball but had no chance to get the rookie speedster — who promptly stole second base on the first pitch of the ensuing Jason Werth plate appearance. Montero issued his first walk of the game to the Nationals’ second hitter. The next batter, Daniel Murphy (who’s hit in 17 straight games against his former team), immediately singled against the shift to load the bases. Montero went to a full count against cleanup hitter Bryce Harper, but walked him to drive home a run. He then got Anthony Rendon to swing at three balls for a strikeout and the booth started dreaming of a double play. But Montero lost Wilson Ramos for his third walk of the inning, so the Mets were down 2-1 with the bases still loaded and only one out. SNY kept panning over to Terry Collins and Dan Warthen; it was clear that Montero’s next walk would be his last. Luckily for Montero, he’d walked enough Nationals that the bottom of the order came to bat. The desiccated remains of Ryan Zimmerman struck out on a pitch off the plate, then Danny Espinosa popped out to left.
Montero batted for himself in the top of the second with runners on first and second, striking out looking. This signaled to those participating and watching at home that Montero would be out on the mound until the status quo became too embarrassing to his manager. Latos led off for the Nats in the second inning, a career .133 hitter. Montero (naturally) fell behind then grooved a pipe shot that Latos deposited over the left field fence. He retired Turner and Werth before Murphy (naturally) doubled over third base and Collins elected to intentionally walk Bryce Harper because platoon advantage (and maybe since Montero struck out Rendon in the first). Montero proved incapable of repeating the feat. Instead, he gave up a no-doubt moonshot, his last batter of the night.
One could say, following Montero’s disaster start, that it’s a good bet Montero will never start another game for this team. Few Mets fans would rush to take the other side of that wager, and thankfully Terry Collins agreed — the skipper announced after the game that Montero won’t be making his next start.
With the Mets down 8-1 in the sixth, Terry raised his ultimate white flag: Michael Conforto replaced Yoenis Cespedes in left field. On the day Wally Backman “resigned” as Triple-A manager, a bunch of his players got into the big-league game: Matt Reynolds, Ty Kelly and Brandon Nimmo were all in by the seventh. The Mets used 18 players, none of them particularly well.
** Rafael Montero walks his 12th batter, Mat Latos hits his second home run **
Terry Collins: I think he's starting to settle in.
— D.J. Short (@djshort) September 12, 2016
“I thought, Gary, that Montero, the first start when he came back, I thought he threw great. He just walked six people, I believe.” — Keith
“He got a hot hitter right there, and maybe he’ll hopefully compute what he did, which is basically fall behind and have to come after the hitter with fastballs.” — Keith, after Montero recorded his first out of the game against the Nationals’ fifth batter
“There are certain times during a season where as a manager, you kinda have to… I don’t want to say concede a game, but if your bullpen is short, maybe let a starter roll out there, if you have a prospect, you’re trying to get his feet wet… this is not that time of year.” — Gary
Noah Syndergaard will be called upon to prevent a two-game losing streak tonight against Joe Ross.
Photo Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports