OAKLAND – Frankie Montas has always had the potential to be a frontline starting pitcher at the major league level. Now, at the age of 26, he's converting that potential into reality.
Montas spun 6 1/3 sparkling innings Wednesday night, limiting the red-hot Astros to a single run on just three hits, with six strikeouts. The talented right-hander improved to 3-1 as the A's snapped Houston's 10-game winning streak with a 2-1 victory at the Coliseum.
"You can see his confidence grow every time he goes out there," A's manager Bob Melvin said after the game. "It's starting to be dominant stuff at times."
"I feel like I'm throwing more strikes and having more command of my fastball in and out of the zone," Montas added. "The splitter really helped me a lot too."
That splitter is a new addition to Montas' arsenal, a pitch he sort of stumbled upon this spring.
"Honestly, I kind of just started playing with it in spring training," he said. "I was not really serious about it, but I saw that I could throw it and get good results. I was just trying to get something else for hitters."
Melvin highlighted the importance of the new pitch.
"It's been the key," Melvin said. "It's a true third pitch. His slider was really good too. Sometimes it's tough to tell the difference between the slider and the split. But a mix of pitches like that...he's a tough guy to hit when he's ahead in the count and feeling pretty good."
In four starts this season, Montas has allowed a total of seven earned runs in 23 1/3 innings for an ERA of 2.70. His 0.94 WHIP ranks first among A's starters as does his .190 opponents' batting average.
This is the pitcher the A's were hoping to someday see when they acquired him from the Dodgers in 2016. Early in his career, Montas suffered injury setbacks to his knee and later his ribs, but the ability never went away.
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"There was a point in his career where he was on the path to do this," Melvin said. "The injuries sidelined him a little bit and he ended up being a reliever. He got humbled a little bit in relief and had to find a different way to do it, and he did. We saw it all spring and we've seen it all season."
Now fully healthy and brimming with confidence, Montas appears ready to fulfill his destiny as a big-league ace.