Forgive me Monty, for I’ve sinned.
The day earlier than the top of the common season, I morbidly mentioned the Yankees’ winnowing potential starters within the coronary heart of a playoff sequence with a pal of mine, much more fervently dedicated to the Bronx membership. We laughed away the seemingly inevitable tragedy of what we deemed a worst-case state of affairs: Jordan Montgomery beginning an elimination recreation. In actual fact, I even stated I’d stop writing for Pinstripe Alley if the aforementioned state of affairs had been to come up, being too distraught to proceed occurring following what I believed would appear like a pathetic excuse of a baseball staff. I’ll even flash the receipts to show the depths of my very own wrongheadedness:
As an alternative of quitting, I’ve determined to air my soiled laundry, and publicly beg for forgiveness. It’s exhausting to consider, even after the very fact, however Jordan Montgomery allowed the fewest runs of any Yankee starter who pitched greater than an inning this postseason in his first profession playoff begin—and that features not one, however two Gerrit Cole begins.
In protection of my misguided presumption, the final time Montgomery confronted the Rays, he didn’t make it by way of the primary body, permitting 4 runs on two hanging curveballs that left the park. Nevertheless, his anticipated stats had been that of a considerably higher pitcher, ending within the 95th percentile of opposing batters’ exit velocity, and he completed 2020 with an xERA almost a run-and-a-half higher than his precise 5.11 mark.
The left-handed Montgomery beat Rays hitters by working a strong changeup off of his major sinker. In 2020, the Rays struggled towards lefties’ sinkers, posting solely a .282 wOBA against the pitch. Montgomery held the Rays to a single run off of three hits, three walks and 4 strikeouts. He saved the ball down, and away from the center of the zone, opting to stroll hitters if he was unable to color, moderately than reward the Rays any alternatives to do actual harm.
When the Rays did put the ball in play, they weren’t in a position to elevate a lot of something with drive. Montgomery solely allowed two batted balls to Rays hitters with better than a twenty-degree launch angle. A type of was an infield pop up, whereas the opposite was Monty’s sole mistake, a sinker on the prime of the zone that led to the Rays’ solely further base hit, Kevin Kiermaier’s second-inning double.
Of the seven homers Montgomery allowed in 2020, just one was off of a sinker, and it too was within the higher third of the strike zone. By leaning on the sinker, and preserving it down, Montgomery deftly dealt with the most important recreation of his life towards a Rays staff ill-equipped to take care of his actual strengths. Hopefully, as we speak’s promising efficiency is indicative of Montgomery’s better total athleticism and really feel for his arsenal transferring forwards within the playoffs, following his second season since his 2018 Tommy John surgical procedure.
Just like how an off-speed pitch can throw a batter off-balance in an at-bat, a big disparity between a starter and reliever can improve the latter’s effectiveness. Chad Green entered within the fifth inning, taking part in his velocity off of Monty’s craft. Green pitched two innings with out permitting a baserunner, straight-up overpowering the Rays along with his upper-nineties fastball and its 89th percentile spin.
By the point Inexperienced got here out for Zack Britton, Gleyber Torers’ blast had made it a three-run recreation. The Yanks tacked on one other run, but it surely wouldn’t matter because the aid corps continued on to carry the Rays to their lowest run complete since September 7th.
I defended Aaron Boone’s decision to make use of Deivi García as an opener and “bulk” with J.A. Happ, and I’ll do it once more. They pitched poorly, however Boone was in a position to stagger his bullpen’s utilization between Video games Two and 4. Even when Tanaka bought shellacked, permitting 5 by way of 4, Boone avoided burning the pen and creating a chance for a good costlier loss. Retaining bullpen flexibility by way of Video games Two and Three was important to closing out final night time’s recreation. Now, with Gerrit Cole set to pitch Recreation 5, the Yankees are in a very good place to journey their ace to the American League Championship Sequence, and actual revenge on Houston for 2017*.