The Yankees show their flaws and discover Frankie Montas for the first time

ST. LOUIS – Slipping lately but still holding a slight advantage for the American League’s best record, the Yankees swung into action last Monday before the Major League Baseball trade deadline. They sent two of their top 10 prospects and two other minor league players to the Oakland Athletics in exchange for relief pitcher Lou Trivino and starting pitcher Frankie Montas.

Although Trivino, a right-hander, has underperformed this season compared to his career standards, he strengthens an injury-plagued bullpen. He has already made four appearances for the Yankees. But Montas, the centerpiece of the trade and the kind of rotational help other teams in contention were also looking for, had yet to make his Yankees debut.

Due to the death of his stepmother, Montas did not join the Yankees until Saturday night, meeting them in St. Louis. He huddled with receiver Jose Trevino at the team hotel. And a day later, he took the mound as a Yankee for the first time. But even he couldn’t stop the team’s worst slip-up of 2022.

Montas had his worst start to the season, allowing six runs in three innings on Sunday and later admitting his delivery was “all over the place.” The 12-9 loss to the surging Cardinals capped the Yankees’ first three-game sweep of the season and extended the team’s season-worst losing streak to five.

“I wanted to go out there and show them what I can do,” he said. “That was not the case today. But it’s not my last.

On July 8, the Yankees were on pace (118) to break an MLB record for wins (116) in a 162-game regular season. They’ve spat since, going 9-16. The Yankees (70-39) still hold a sizable lead in their division, the AL East, but cracks have surfaced and they have lost ground to the Houston Astros (70-40) for the top-seeded AL in playoffs.

Against the Cardinals (60-48), who sit first in National League Central and have now won seven straight, Montas’ order was inconsistent. In the second inning, with the Yankees leading, 4-1, he walked the first two batters. Dylan Carlson and Paul Goldschmidt each drove a run – with another walk in between – to bring the Cardinals in a single run. Then, Nolan Arenado broke a three-run home run that earned him a recall.

Right fielder Aaron Judge tied the game with a two-run brace in the fifth inning, but the Yankees bullpen squandered that in the bottom half of the frame by allowing three runs.

“We’re definitely going through this right now and we’re frustrated with the way we played,” said infielder DJ LeMahieu, the only Yankee to homer on Sunday. “When we get a good pitching game, we don’t hit, and vice versa.”

Perhaps one of the reasons for Montas’ struggles was his irregular schedule lately. Right-handed, he returned July 21 after missing nearly three weeks with inflammation in his throwing shoulder. He left for Oakland on July 26, hitting 78 pitches, then was traded to New York. But then came the death of the family which delayed Montas’ arrival and affected his workload, which manager Aaron Boone said was still recovering from the injury.

While Montas was on the mourning list, Sam Briend, the team’s pitching manager, flew to Arizona to meet with him and oversee his pitching, including a bullpen session, said Matt Blake, the team’s pitching coach.

“We didn’t want him to be alone for four or five days and then come and start, so Sam went, kind of looked at him, explained what the expectations were and gave us a download of what he does in his routine and everything,” Blake said.

Boone added: “We had about the best week possible given the circumstances.”

Before trade deadline, Yankees added All-Star outfielder André Benintendi, a left-handed contact hitter who helps further balance the roster and overcome the absence of Giancarlo Stanton (left Achilles tendonitis) and the struggles of Aaron Hicks (.226 batting average); right-handed reliever Scott Effross, who strikes out while throwing a handgun; Trivino; and Montes.

Montas, 29, bolsters a rotation that has struggled (Domingo German has a 5.09 ERA in four starts since returning from a shoulder injury) and will be without Luis Severino (latissimus dorsi right strain ) until mid-September.

But the Yankees also subtracted from their rotation, surprisingly sending 29-year-old southpaw Jordan Montgomery – who was drafted by the Yankees in 2014, had thrown solid (3.69 ERA) and was under team control the next year – at the Cardinals for Harrison Bader, a 2021 Gold Glove-winning center fielder who is on the disabled list until possibly September. Although Bader has hit .256 this season and has been out since late June with plantar fasciitis, he can help shore up the Yankees’ weakest defensive field position.

(Calling it emotional and strange to face his former teammates so quickly, Montgomery pitched five scoreless innings against the Yankees in a 1-0 victory on Saturday.)

Although the baseball industry viewed Montas as an upgrade over Montgomery, general manager Brian Cashman recently said he did not acquire Montas to then ship Montgomery. He said the trade for Montas, who will be a free agent after the 2023 season, and the trade for Montgomery for Bader were done with the goal of “how can we best fly high with the best of our abilities when it matters most in October and what gives us the most quality choices.

Blake said Montas was similar to Severino, “a bulldog on the mound that attacks you with power.” He later added, “For us, he’s a mid-to-upper ’90s right-handed pitcher with a full arsenal that can take out right-handers and left-handers. It just fits the top of our rotation and gives us another guy we feel confident going into the playoffs with.

Montas, who originally signed out of his native Dominican Republic with the Boston Red Sox, found his footing with the Athletic after being traded several times. In six years at Oakland, Montas was 35-30 with a 3.70 ERA in nearly 538 innings, was suspended 80 games in 2019 for performance-enhancing drug, and pitched more than 180 innings in one season. only once (in 2021, with a 3.37 ERA).

Prior to joining the Yankees, Montas had a 3.18 ERA in 104⅔ innings this season. His first impression didn’t go well, but as they plan for October, the Yankees will need Montas to get back into shape.

“They’re the best team right now, you know?” he said. “They have a good culture and a very good group here. I’m really excited to be here.

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