In some ways, Monday night marked Jordan Montgomery’s worst outing of an otherwise stellar season.
The left-hander allowed a season-high five runs — all in a disastrous third inning — against an Athletics lineup that entered the day averaging just 3.18 runs per game, good for 29th-best in MLB.
And yet, in other ways, Montgomery’s final line — which included six strikeouts across 6 ²/₃ innings in the Yankees’ 9-5 comeback victory — could also be in consideration for one of his best.
“He did a great job of buckling down and pitching deep into the game anyway,” manager Aaron Boone said.
With a runner on first and two outs in the third inning, Montgomery appeared to be cruising, having tossed 2 ²/₃ scoreless innings.
But that third out proved elusive. The left-hander crumbled, allowing five two-out runs, burying the Yankees in an early 5-1 hole.
“I just wasn’t executing pitches,” Montgomery said.
Then, on a dime, Montgomery’s fortunes reversed.
Instead of wilting, he rebounded, ending his night on a positive note. Montgomery retired Christian Pache to strand a runner and get out of the third inning. Including Pache, he set down 12 of the final 14 batters he faced, pitching into the seventh inning.
And when he departed to the tune of a pleasant ovation from the Yankee Stadium faithful, the crowd recognized what his efforts meant. Though the Yankees still trailed, 5-3, Montgomery had kept them in the game, giving the team’s potent bats a chance at a comeback.
“I think it really just comes down to three bad pitches,” Boone said. “A few mistake pitches that hurt him, obviously. But Monty’s always good about, whatever’s going on, he just continues to battle through. And to get us into the seventh, that’s a gutsy outing.”
In all, Montgomery’s outing — once ticketed towards disaster — wound up as his third-longest start of the season.
For Montgomery, it will be hard to ignore the blemishes. His ERA rose again, up to 3.27, after dipping to 2.70 just three starts ago.
It’s that fateful third inning that he will want back.
“I expect a lot more of myself,” Montgomery said. “I’m sick of giving up runs and I know I’m good enough not to. So I just have to keep grinding.”
But, the rest of his outing, one that turned into the Yankees’ league-leading 54th win on the season, offered something to build upon.
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