Here’s a wild split: Against teams not based in Milwaukee, Mike Montgomery has a 2.80 ERA and 2:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 2017. Against the Milwaukee Brewers, Montgomery has a 10.13 ERA and 1:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
For whatever reason, Montgomery has struggled mightily against the Brewers this year. Saturday was no different, with Montgomery allowing four runs on two hits and four walks and recording only six outs before being pulled in the midst of a disastrous third inning. Milwaukee plated eight off Montgomery and right-hander Justin Grimm in that frame and went on to win, 15-2, moving within three games of the Cubs in the National League Central.
“I’m all about Mike pitching the next time out and doing well,” manager Joe Maddon said. “It’s just one of those days, you have to continue to support — you’ve seen him pitch really well, that’s just a tough day for him right there. … He’s been pitching well, overall. His overall body of work has been good. Against this team, for me, I’m seeing him not hitting the strike zone.
The Cubs can always alter their rotation, especially with a swingman like Montgomery. But with Jake Arrieta (hamstring) likely to miss his next start, Montgomery could start Thursday against the New York Mets or Friday against the St. Louis Cardinals. And if Arrieta were to miss his next turn in the rotation beyond next week and the Cubs line up Montgomery to pitch every fifth game, he would start the opening game of what could be a pivotal series against the Brewers at Miller Park on Thursday, Sept. 21.
“Definitely, I gotta do a lot better out there,” Montgomery said.
There are some ifs in there, though, and plenty of time for the Cubs to adjust things and/or get Arrieta back. And if the Cubs can salvage a win on Sunday, they’ll still hold a four-game lead over Milwaukee with 19 games to go (the Cardinals, too, are still a threat).
As a reliever, Montgomery has limited opponents to a .620 OPS and boasts a 2.57 ERA (and, of course, he earned the save in Game 7 of the World Series a year ago). Whatever his role, though, the Cubs may need Montgomery to make sure they can have a chance to defend their title.
“I think it kind of just reminds us that (the Brewers), they don’t look at us as the team to beat,” Montgomery said. “They think they’re the team to beat. And they come to play and act like it. So it just kind of reminds us that we really gotta bring it against them.”