After using Deivi Garcia and J.A. Happ in Tuesday night’s loss to the Tampa Bay Rays, the question was who manager Aaron Boone was going to throw in Game 4 with Masahiro Tanaka pitching in the pivotal Game 3 on Wednesday night.
We have an answer.
Jordan Montgomery is going to get the start in Game 4, which could turn out to be an elimination game depending on the Game 3 result. Montgomery hasn’t been on a mound since Sept. 25 where he allowed three earned on six hits (one homer) while striking out eight in 5.1 innings against the Toronto Blue Jays.
Oh, and it’s Montgomery’s first postseason appearance of his career.
Montgomery did get up in the bullpen to get warm during the Wild Card Round, but never got to go in. Now, potentially facing a game where the Yankees will need his absolute best to stay alive or finish off a series, he says he’ll be ready to go.
“Pretty sharp,” he told reporters when asked how his stuff is at the moment. “I got up in Cleveland and I’ve been staying ready mentally since I’ve been in the bullpen. This deep into the season I’m pretty confident about where I’m at right now.”
Montgomery hasn’t game experiences recently, but he said he stays ready by “just kinda visualize being on the mound, seeing my pitches and seeing good results.” And that’s what he will be looking for against a tough Rays lineup on Thursday night.
The Rays are aggressive hitters that know what they want to see at the plate and are certainly not afraid to jump right out and swing for the fences (just look at the Game 2 film). Montgomery is well aware of what they can produce each night.
“They just got a lot of good hitters,” he said. “Put together a lot of good ABs and kinda put together good swings on good pitches. Really they’re a talented team and makes you be extra pinpoint.”
Also worth noting: Montgomery hasn’t gotten word from the Yankees – at least he won’t say it to the camera – about his actual role on Thursday. Could it be like what happened in Game 2 where Garcia was the opener and Happ came in the second inning? Boone did say that Garcia is “very much in the mix” for Game 4 if need be.
“I have no idea. I’m going to treat it like it’s my game,” Montgomery said.
It should make Yankee fans a tad anxious to see Montgomery getting the ball in this game, especially considering it could be a do-or-die situation. While he hasn’t faced the Rays yet this season, he did own a 5.11 ERA in 10 starts. It also seems like Montgomery has trouble facing teams the second and third times around in the batting order. If Boone is looking for Montgomery to go deep in this game, that – along with the fact that he hasn’t pitched in a long time – may become an issue.
But most importantly, how will he react to the high pressure from October baseball for the first time? There’s already pressure if it’s an elimination game to begin with. To face that in your first playoff game is a huge responsibility.
It’s one, however, that Montgomery has been waiting for his entire career.
“I’m excited. This is what I’ve been working really whole career for, especially when you haven’t been out there in a while you get a little antsy and want to get out there even more,” he said.