Montero, Mets shut down Reds
CINCINNATI — Right-hander Rafael Montero is making a strong case for a permanent spot in the New York Mets’ rotation.
Montero relied on a much-improved changeup to allow only one hit through eight innings on Wednesday, and first-inning RBI doubles by Wilmer Flores and Kevin Plawecki provided the offense that lifted the Mets to a 2-0 victory over the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park.
Montero pitched a career-high 8 1/3 innings, allowing three hits. He struck out eight, two shy of his career high.
“He was the guy in charge tonight,” Mets manager Terry Collins said. “He got easy outs. He didn’t have deep counts. That saved him. If he’s learning something right now it’s that his stuff in the (strike) zone gets outs.”
Montero (3-9) allowed only four baserunners through the first eight innings, three via walks, and one of them was picked off. He spent time in the Dominican refining his changeup, and the work is paying off.
“Now it’s a pitch I can rely on,” Montero said via an interpreter.
Montero was en route to a complete-game shutout after retiring 12 straight batters through the first out in the ninth inning. However, after he allowed a single to Phillip Ervin and a double to Zack Cozart, Collins went to closer AJ Ramos.
Joey Votto was intentionally walked to load the bases. Ramos struck out Adam Duvall, then fanned Scooter Gennett on a 3-2 pitch for his 26th save of the season.
“I thought we were in business,” Reds manager Bryan Price said, “but Ramos came in and made some big pitches to (Duvall) and Scooter. That kid (Montero) pitched a great game. It just goes to show what can happen when you have command of your fastball and what a change(up) can do.”
It was Montero’s 13th start and 28th appearance. His last outing came in relief during the first game of a Sunday doubleheader at Washington. He has struck out five or more batters in a career-high seven consecutive starts.
So about being a full-time starter?
“That’s not my decision,” Montero said. “I just have to keep putting the work in.”
New York (58-74) had a 14-game winning streak against Cincinnati snapped Tuesday night but on Wednesday won for the 12th time in its past 15 games at Great American Ball Park.
It was the Mets’ fifth shutout win of the season, third on the road.
After allowing two runs and three doubles in the first inning, Reds starter Homer Bailey (4-7) cruised through the remainder of his six-inning outing, allowing just one hit and a walk in his final five innings. He walked one and struck out one in 73 pitches.
Right-hander Tim Adleman pitched three scoreless innings to keep Cincinnati close, but the Reds (56-77) were shut out for the fifth time this season and fourth time at home.
Bailey, who left his previous start after three innings with irritation in the back of his throwing shoulder, showed lower velocity compared with recent outings but managed to recover from a rough first inning.
“Sometimes you have to pitch with what you’ve got,” Bailey said. “I’m still kind of feeling things out. After coming out of the last game, you don’t want to go red line.”
Jose Reyes led off the first inning with a double and scored on Flores’ two-out double to put the Mets ahead 1-0. Plawecki made it 2-0 with a double to left.
The Mets’ defense helped out Montero.
Montero didn’t allow a hit until Joey Votto’s double with one out in the fourth. Duvall then walked, but a double play ended the threat. Montero walked Eugenio Suarez leading off the fifth, but Plawecki picked him off first.
“When he pitches inside, it speeds up their bats,” Collins said of Montero’s 117-pitch effort. “He kept the ball on the ground. I thought Raff was in complete control tonight.”
As for Montero’s future in the Mets’ rotation, Collins gave him a vote of confidence.
“He’s bound and determined to show he’s the guy we thought he was for a number of years,” the Mets skipper said.
NOTES: Mets RHP Matt Harvey will start Game 1 of a Saturday doubleheader at Houston. There was talk that the games against the Astros were going to be played in St. Petersburg, Fla., because of Hurricane Harvey. Instead, the Friday game was postponed to be part of a Saturday twin-bill. ... Mets RHP Noah Syndergaard (torn right lat) will begin a rehab assignment with the rookie-level Gulf Coast League Mets on Saturday. ... Reds CF Billy Hamilton was given a rest, though he flied out as a ninth-inning pinch hitter. Rookie Phillip Ervin made his first appearance in center and the leadoff spot, and he went 1-for-4.