Montas Setting an Exhilarating Pace for Athletics Starting Rotation

Frankie Montas has two of the wins during Oakland's current eight-game winning streak, and the opening day starter for the Athletics is getting back to where he was at his peak last season.
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While the A’s are waiting for their offense to awaken, the Oakland pitching has become a dominant force in the West.

The A’s are 11-4 after Frankie Montas threw seven scoreless two-hit innings Saturday in a 3-1 win that extended the A’s winning streak to eight games, the best in the big leagues to date.

And while the A’s are generally seen as a homer-happy bunch of hitters, it’s been the work of the pitchers to balance that out. During the eight-game winning streak, Oakland has allowed two or fewer runs six time. The team ERA is 1.87 during that stretch and the A’s are limiting opposing hitters to a .182 batting average.

While the bullpen has been setting the pace from Day 1, the rotation is starting to come around. And leading the pack is opening day starter Frankie Montas, who was feeling “way too good” Saturday while turning in one of the best games of his A’s career, seven innings in which he allowed two hits, no runs and struck out five.

That’s coming after a seven-inning, four-hit, one-run nine-strikeout game in Seattle. He’s 2-1 in four starts with a 1.57 ERA.

“I was feeling way too good today, and that was the problem,” Montas said. “I couldn’t feel my arm; I was just trying to go out there and throw strikes.”

In 2019, Montas emerged as one of the A’s rising stars. He had a 9-2 record and seemed headed to the All-Star game. Then he got slapped with an 80-game PED suspension, and he’d pitch in just one game the rest of the season.

Saturday was the first day he said he felt like he was close to being the pitcher he was the first half of 2019.

“I feel good, I feel good; I’ve been feeling good the last two games,” he said. “I was training for this during the quarantine.”

Melvin said “there’s a reason we pitched him on opening day.”

“That’s two times in a row and throwing seven innings,” the manager said. “He had really good command today. It looked like he was in control, and he had a good splitter and slider.

“When teams look at the matchups against us, they don’t particularly look forward to facing him.”

Montas said that, as good as the eight-game winning streak feels, things could be getting better. He likes the team’s pitching, top to bottom, and he said the mound corps should be able to keep things together until the hitters come around.

“We’ve been getting great pitching from the starters and relievers,” he said. And we’ve found a way to score runs. We’ve got a little bit of everything.”

A’s starters are 4-0 with a 2.49 ERA during the winning streak. And in the Sunday finale, the A’s will throw Jesus Luzardo, the club’s top pitching prospect. A lefty with 95-plus velocity, he threw five shutout innings in his first big league start Monday against the Rangers.

“It’s huge, it’s huge,” Montas said about winning two from the Astros, the three-time AL West winners. “They are the team we’re always battling with for the first spot. So, to be able to get two, and we have Luzardo pitching. That’s huge.”

Follow Athletics insider John Hickey on Twitter: @JHickey3

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