ST. LOUIS — The Yankees acquired Frankie Montas ahead of this week's trade deadline in an effort to bolster the top of their rotation, adding a stellar No. 2 starter capable of leading this team to victory every five days.
Montas had his first opportunity to toe the slab in a Yankees uniform on Sunday afternoon in St. Louis, called upon to halt New York's first four-game losing streak of the season.
The excitement about Montas' debut was palpable before first pitch, the type of spark that was poised to lift this club to their first win since before the deadline on Tuesday.
That energy quickly waned for those in road grays over the first few innings at Busch Stadium, though.
Montas looked nothing like the ace-caliber starter that New York traded for, lasting just three innings while allowing six runs on five hits. The 29-year-old walked three batters, striking out two in what turned out to be a dispiriting, 12-9 loss for New York.
"Feel pretty good, just not really in sync with my mechanics," Montas said after the game. "I was missing my spots a lot."
It was clear from the first batter Montas faced in the bottom of the first that the starter didn't have his best stuff on Sunday.
Montas jumped in front against leadoff man Dylan Carlson before leaving a two-strike splitter over the heart of the plate, a pitch that Carlson was able to drive to left field for a single. After cruising to an 0-2 count against Brendan Donovan one batter later, Montas lost control of a fastball, plunking the designated hitter to put runners on first and second.
That's when New York had their early one-run lead taken away. With one man out, Nolan Arenado smacked a single to left, scoring Carlson.
"Just having a hard time putting guys away," Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. "It started right out of the gate. ... Then when he came out there in the second, they had the big inning."
Big inning is right.
St. Louis dropped a five spot on Montas in the second, an emphatic response to New York's three-run surge to take the lead in the top of the frame. Montas walked three batters, setting up for the biggest blow of the inning: a three-run home run off the bat of Arenado into the visitor's bullpen in left-center field.
Montas didn't factor into the decision on Sunday as both these clubs battled back and forth in the middle innings.
If it's any consolation to Montas' rocky start, and poor first impression, the right-hander finished his quick outing—of 64 pitches—with a solid and scoreless third inning.
Plus, Montas was averaging 96 mph on his fastball, at one point touching 97.9. That's an encouraging sign considering the starter battled inflammation in his shoulder earlier this month, a red flag the Yankees thoroughly examined before pulling the trigger on the six-player deal that brought Montas (and reliever Lou Trivino) to the Bronx.
"He flashed all the things you get excited about today," Boone explained, focusing on the positives. "He just wasn't real sharp. Finished pretty well. Thought his third inning was his best inning where he was on the attack and able to have a clean inning to get through that, so it's on to the next one."
It's important to cut Montas some slack as well. Not only is he coming off that injury scare earlier in the month, along with a trade that abruptly ended his six-year tenure with the Athletics, but the right-hander began his Yankees career on the bereavement list, dealing with a death in his family.
"I know that I have to still do my job and I have to go out there and try to do my best," Montas said, thinking back on a challenging couple of weeks off the field.
Montas had gone nearly two weeks since his previous outing, five innings of two-run ball against Houston on July 26. Now, as he starts to get acclimated to his new team, shaking off rust while rebuilding his stamina, he's eager to show what he's truly capable of.
"I wanted to go out there and show them what I can do," he said. "That was not the case today, but this is not my last one. It's the first one."
"He's going to do big things for us."
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