By necessity, Rafael Montero is no longer an afterthought in the Mets’ pitching plans. A plethora of injuries to the staff has created opportunities.
Montero almost had a good outing Thursday in a 3-2 loss to the Diamondbacks. He allowed only one hit through the first four innings.
Yoenis Cespedes’ 17th homer, a drive into the second deck in leftfield, gave Montero a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the fourth. It was the Mets’ first hit off Diamondbacks starter Robbie Ray (10-5), making his first start since July 28, when he was hit in the head by a line drive.
But Arizona scored twice off Montero in the fifth on four singles and a sacrifice fly. With one out, Rey Fuentes and Chris Herrmann singled. Ray reached on what started as a sacrifice bunt toward third that Montero and Wilmer Flores initially let roll. After Flores fielded it, Ray was called out at first, but it was overturned on review. Gregor Blanco singled in a run to tie it at 1 before Ketel Marte’s sacrifice fly gave Arizona a 2-1 lead.
Montero gave up another run in the sixth on an RBI single by Brandon Drury. In the seventh, the Mets got their second run when Gavin Cecchini scored on Brandon Nimmo’s groundout. Cespedes was intentionally walked, loading the bases for Flores, who struck out. Cespedes again was intentionally walked in the ninth with the tying run on third, and Flores flied out to end the game.
Montero (2-9) gave up seven hits and struck out five in 5 1⁄3 innings. “I felt good, I felt confident,’’ he said. “I’m starting to see results again from my pitches, especially the sinker. It’s working for me really well.’’
Cespedes also doubled and is batting .370 (20-for-54) with six homers in the last 16 games.
Terry Collins has noticed, but he lamented the loss of Michael Conforto to a dislocated shoulder. “Ces is starting to heat up,’’ he said, “and with Michael in the lineup, we [had] two really legitimate guys in the middle of your lineup.’’