DETROIT — So, this is the Mike Montgomery the Royals thought they might be getting when they acquired him from the Cubs for catcher Martin Maldonado in July.
In his fifth start with his new club, and the first without a pitch limit, Montgomery was dominant. The left-hander gave up four singles and he didn’t walk a batter over seven innings in a 7-0 victory over the Tigers on Saturday night at Comerica Park.
“It was pretty enjoyable to watch,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “You could tell he was right from the onset, he was on top of his game. Twelve punchouts, no walks, commanding his pitches. I take it back, I think he went 3-0 on the first hitter, I thought, ‘Oh man.’ He ended up striking him out, striking out the second hitter, striking out the third hitter. He looked great”.
Montgomery struck out a career-high 12 batters. His previous high was 10 against the Royals in June 2015, when he was with the Mariners. He also became just the third pitcher in franchise history to strike out at least 12 in a game with no walks. Luke Hochevar did it against the Rangers in 2009, and Zack Greinke did it against the Reds in 2010.
Montgomery now has struck out 19 batters in his last 12 innings.
“My delivery is feeling more comfortable,” he said. “I’m throwing some good bullpens in between and getting good work in. I’m just trusting what I got. I feel like mechanically I’m in a good place. Now just try to keep it there the rest of the year.
“There’s still a lot of season left. You kind of enjoy these moments, but you also know you’ve got however many starts left, let’s keep this rolling.”
Montgomery was perfect through four innings, mixing in a sharp curveball and devastating changeup with a hard-to-pick-up cutter that kept hitters guessing. He threw his cutter 23 times and got eight swings and misses. He used his changeup 26 times and got 10 swings and misses.
“I think the cutter and changeup were big to play off my fastball,” Montgomery said. “I thought I threw enough fastballs in good locations for those to work. You’ve gotta attack with the fastball first and then you can work off that. I think the locations were there and that’s really the key.”
Montgomery threw 100 pitches, 64 for strikes.
“A lot of swings and misses,” Yost said. “He mixed in a good curveball, too. He’s to the point now where he’s back in the routine, he’s got his pitch count up, he feels strong, he feels good, he’s executing.”
It certainly took a long journey for Montgomery to get his first win for the team that selected him in the 2008 MLB Draft. He had stops with three other organizations in between.
“I probably wouldn’t have believed it would take this long,” Montgomery said. “I’ve had a lot of different experiences since I was last a Royal. To get my first win for the Royals feels good, and to do it this way with a career-high in strikeouts makes it even sweeter.
“You never know how any day is going to unfold, but you make good pitches and good things happen.”
Royals designated hitter Jorge Soler crushed his 33rd home run, a monstrous two-run blast to right-center in the fourth inning with Whit Merrifield on base. Statcast projected it traveled 444 feet.
“That’s the deepest part of the ballpark,” Yost said. “As soon as he hit it, I wasn’t sure, I mean I knew he hit it hard, but I wasn’t sure where he hit it. I lost it on the rail thing and I looked, and then when I saw where it hit. Man, and it sounded like it was smoked. I saw it jump off the bat. Man, he really crushed it.”