Jordan Montgomery strikes out seven in encouraging MLB debut

Scott Hood,
Gamecock Central

USA Today

Former South Carolina ace Jordan Montgomery allowed three runs - two earned - and struck out seven in 4.2 innings of work during his Major League Baseball debut for New York against Tampa Bay Wednesday afternoon at Yankee Stadium.

Montgomery allowed a two-run home run in the first inning, but the big lefty was otherwise impressive in his first time out as the Yankees' fifth starter. Montgomery showed command of his fastball, curveball and changeup in producing the seven Ks.

He allowed five hits and threw 89 pitches.

Montgomery exited with a runner on second and two outs in the fifth after striking out Evan Longoria. At the time, New York was trailing 2-0.

An error on second baseman Starlin Castro on the next at-bat allowed the runner to score, which counted as an unearned run towards Montgomery's line.

Montgomery had a dream start to his major league career, striking out the first two Tampa Bay Ray batters he faced Wednesday. e then jumped ahead 0-2 to Longoria, one of the major’s best hitters before throwing four straight balls.

As baseball folks always say, two-out walks usually come back to bite you. This time, it did as the next Tampa batter Rickie Weeks Jr. jumped on a Montgomery pitch that caught too much of the plate just below waist level and hammered a two-out homer over the left field wall.

That offering turned out to be one of the few bad pitches Montgomery threw in 4.2 innings. The former Gamecock standout, who earned his promotion to the big leagues with an impressive spring training, had an encouraging debut in one of the most pressure-packed environments in all of baseball.

Before the game, Yankees manager Joe Girardi speculated Montgomery’s experience pitching for the Gamecocks in the 2012 College World Series would minimize his pre-game jitters as he has already pitched on a national stage.

Montgomery allowed three hits on five hits with seven strikeouts and two walks in 4.2 innings.

After allowing the homer to Weeks in the first, Montgomery set down the Rays in order in the top of the second on a pair of fly balls and a grounder.

In the third, he worked out of trouble, escaping a first and second, one out jam by striking out Longoria and Weeks.

Montgomery issued another two-out walk in the top of the fourth before Tim Beckham singled. However, Montgomery got out of the inning by inducing Peter Bourjos to pop up to second.

Montgomery’s final inning started with a leadoff double to left by Steve Souza Jr. before he bore down and fanned Kevin Kiermaler and Evan Longoria (second time). After getting the first two outs, Montgomery was lifted in favor of Bryan Mitchell.

Montgomery departed the mound to a loud ovation from appreciative Yankee fans.

Montgomery is 49th player in South Carolina history to reach the Majors. He posted a 20-7 record and 2.87 ERA on the mound in his Gamecock career, one of 23 pitchers in South Carolina history with 20 or more wins. He started 42 games.

Most importantly, Montgomery was very successful in the postseason for the Gamecocks, owning a career postseason record of 5-0 with a 0.93 ERA in five postseason starts. He surrendered just four runs on 20 hits in 38.2 innings.

He allowed just three walks while fanning 35 batters in wins over Clemson and Arkansas in 2012, Liberty and North Carolina in 2013 and Campbell in 2014.

Montgomery was selected by the Yankees in the fourth round (No. 122 overall) of the 2014 MLB Draft.

(Wes Mitchell contributed to this story)

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