Of all the players who are left competing this October, there might not be any player who stands to gain more than Jordan Montgomery. A criminally underrated starting pitcher over the last few years, the 30-year-old left-hander is getting the chance to showcase his talents on the biggest stage.
From trade deadline afterthought, to postseason ace, Montgomery’s tenure with the Texas Rangers has meant everything to his stock ahead of a very important time in his career this winter.
Right now, it is all about a chance to win the World Series, something the Rangers are now seven wins away from after Montgomery pitched them to victory last night. But coming up for Montgomery is free agency, where he is set to become one of the top names on the market based on what he has done this October.
Rise to Become the Rangers Ace
When the Texas Rangers acquired Jordan Montgomery at the trade deadline, the plan certainly was not for him to be their Game 1 starter in the playoffs. He was probably projected to get the ball, but the idea was for Max Scherzer to be the Rangers ace come October.
Montgomery was seen as a necessary addition due to the uncertainty regarding the health of Nathan Eovaldi, after the Rangers had already lost Jacob deGrom earlier in the season. Scherzer and Montgomery were tasked with filling the void, but when the former went down with an injury near the end of the regular season, the Rangers rotation suddenly had more questions than answers.
Eovaldi would return in September, but did not pitch well. Thus led to the Rangers decision to put the ball in Montgomery’s hands for Game 1 of the AL Wild Card series against the Tampa Bay Rays.
If there is one word to describe Montgomery over the last three seasons it has been consistent. He is one of the few starting pitchers in baseball who has been able to take the ball every fifth day and post quality starts more often than not.
With the Rangers, Montgomery made 11 starts post-trade deadline and pitched to a 2.79 ERA across 67 2/3 innings pitched. Combine that with the 21 starts he made for the Cardinals and you have a season where Montgomery made 32 starts and pitched to a 3.20 ERA over 188 2/3 innings pitched.
Prior to this season, Montgomery’s only playoff experience was one start for the Yankees in the COVID-season of 2020 and a start for the Cardinals in the Wild Card round last year.
Now here was Montgomery, as unlikely a No. 1 starter as you could peg on a team that is paying deGrom, Scherzer and Eovaldi. The task was facing an extremely tough Tampa Bay Rays lineup, who had won 99 games in the regular season.
No one knew how Montgomery would respond under those circumstances, but over the last few weeks he has proven more than up to the occasion.
Playoff Brilliance from Montgomery
Jordan Montgomery set the tone for what has become a great run through October for the Texas Rangers thus far. He blanked the Rays across seven innings in the Rangers first playoff game, earning a victory that set Texas up to hand Nathan Eovaldi the ball with the chance to advance in Game 2.
Eovaldi shook off the injury rust and threw a gem of his own against the Rays, pitching the Rangers into the ALDS where they would face off against the 101-win Baltimore Orioles. Suddenly the Rangers seemed to have a pair of co-aces who were ready to lead them on a deep run.
In the ALDS, the Rangers managed to win Game 1 before handing the ball back to Montgomery for Game 2. In front of a raucous Baltimore crowd, who was desperate to see their team get back into the series, Montgomery struggled a bit in his second playoff start.
The Orioles great lineup managed to get nine hits and score five runs (four earned) off Montgomery, but he still helped the Rangers get through four innings in a slug-fest that saw 19 total runs scored.
The Rangers won by a scored of 11-8, and would go on to complete the sweep behind Eovaldi in the following game. Thus brings us to last night, where the Rangers opened up their highly-anticipated ALCS matchup against their in-state rival, the Houston Astros.
Again, this put Jordan Montgomery on the mound for a Game 1, going up against the defending champs who have more playoff experience than any team left by a wide margin. None of that mattered against Montgomery, who once again pitched his team to victory with a brilliant performance.
Through the first two innings, albeit with the help of some great defense behind him, Montgomery avoided any serious threats from Houston. Then came the third inning, where an ill-timed walk to Martin Maldonado and a base hit by Alex Bregman set up a terrifying situation for any pitcher.
Facing Yordan Alvarez with two runners on base.
Montgomery did a masterful job of staying away from Alvarez, getting him to swing at pitches just out of the zone to get ahead with a 1-2 count. Alvarez hung in there and worked a full count, then fouled off a pitch to extend the at-bat to seven pitches.
Having thrown everything but his curveball in the at-bat, Montgomery buried a breaking ball and got Alvarez to swing right through it for a massive strikeout.
In the next inning, Montgomery was once again walking the tight-rope, having allowed three-consecutive base hits to load the bases after getting the first two outs to start the inning.
When Martin Maldonado stepped up to the plate, some Rangers fans may have relaxed a bit seeing the light-hitting catcher who bats ninth for the Astros. Then FOX showed his career numbers against Montgomery: 3-for-4 with a double and two home runs.
Despite the past success, this was Montgomery’s night and he was not going to be beat by anyone on the other side. Cleary due to get the better of Maldonado, Montgomery went after him with fastballs and get one by him up in the zone for another inning-ending strikeout.
On the other side, Justin Verlander kept things close for the Astros all night. He gave up an early run in the second inning when rookie Evan Carter doubled and was later driven in by catcher Jonah Heim. Then allowed a solo homer to Leody Taveres in the top of the fifth.
Staked to a 2-0 lead, Montgomery retired the side in order in the bottom of the fifth and sixth, including yet another punchout against Yordan Alvarez.
Montgomery stayed on to get the first out of the seventh inning, before manager Bruce Bochy pulled him in favor of better matchups with their relievers.
All told, Montgomery went 6 1/3 innings, allowed just five hits and no runs, with six strikeouts compared to just one walk. He threw 90 pitches, 60 of them were strikes. Now through three postseason starts, Montgomery is sporting a 2.08 ERA across 17 1/3 innings pitched.
More Time to Improve His Stock Futher
While he has been fantastic so far, Montgomery and the Rangers hope he is just getting started on this playoff run. Projected to start Game 5 in a rematch with Justin Verlander, there is a very good chance we will still see him pitch again in this series.
Beyond that, if the Rangers can advance on to the World Series, Montgomery could get the chance to pitch on the absolute biggest stage in the Fall Classic.
Once the dust settles after this magical playoff run though, there is great chance that Montgomery is going to find his name all the way at the top of this year’s free agent class. Blake Snell will still probably receive the biggest contract, coming off his second Cy Young campaign, but Montgomery might not be as far behind as we once thought.
Here is a guy who had already proven over the last two years that he could make 30 starts a season and soak up innings, while pitching to a sub 3.50 ERA. Now factor in the way he has rose to the occasion on the biggest stage and teams should be lining up for his services this winter.
We will have plenty of time to project how much money Montgomery could earn and which teams could be lining up for services. For now, let’s just enjoy watching a guy turn himself into a household name by being an absolute dog of a competitor in the biggest baseball games imaginable.
What a run it has been for Montgomery and the Rangers, who seem to just be getting started.