Rafael Montero

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Rafael Montero Quezada

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Biographical Information[edit]

Rafael Montero started the 2013 Futures Game.

Montero was signed by New York Mets scouts Rafael Perez, Ismael Cruz and Gerardo Cabrera in January 2011. He flew through the Mets system that summer, with stints for the DSL Mets (1-1, 1.00, 20 K, 0 BB, 7 H in 18 IP), GCL Mets (1-2, Sv, 1.45, 32 K in 31 IP), Kingsport Mets (2-1, 4.24) and Brooklyn Cyclones (1-0, 3.60). He split 2012 between the Savannah Sand Gnats (6-3, 2.52) and St. Lucie Mets (5-2, 2.13), with 110 strikeouts, only 19 walks and 96 hits in 122 innings. He was third in the Mets chain in wins behind Gonzalez Germen and Zack Wheeler, and second to Tyler Pill in ERA. He was named the Mets Minor League Pitcher of the Year.

Rafael began 2013 well with the Binghamton Mets (7-3, 2.43, 72 K, .92 WHIP in 66 2/3 IP) and moved up to the AAA Las Vegas 51s. He started the 2013 Futures Game for the World team, facing fellow Mets prospect Noah Syndergaard. He had a 1-2-3 frame, retiring Billy Hamilton, Delino DeShields Jr. and George Springer. Enny Romero relieved Montero in the second inning. He finished 5-4 with a 3.05 ERA for Las Vegas. In 155 1/3 innings, he struck out 150, walked 35 and hit no one. He tied Logan Verrett for second in the Mets chain in wins (3 behind Gabriel Ynoa), led in strikeouts (17 ahead of Syndergaard) and was second to Ynoa in ERA. Baseball America named him the Mets' #3 prospect (after Syndergaard and Travis d'Arnaud), #13 in the Eastern League (between Taylor Jordan and Garin Cecchini), #18 in the Pacific Coast League (between Tyler Skaggs and Jonathan Villar), #68 in all of baseball. He began 2014 back with Las Vegas (4-1, 3.67, 41 K in 41 2/3 IP).

Montero made his major league debut on May 14, 2014, replacing the injured Dillon Gee in making a start against the New York Yankees. He pitched pretty well, allowing 3 runs on 5 hits in 6 innings, but he was matched up with Masahiro Tanaka, unbeaten in almost two years as a starter during during the regular season, and the Japanese ace pitched his first MLB shutout in defeating the Mets, 4-0. He went 1-3, 4.06 in 10 games for the Mets, including 8 starts, pitching 44 1/3 innings. He began the 2015 season in the Mets' bullpen but after fur appearances went back in the minors with Las Vegas. He was called back to the big leagues after a couple of starts to make a spot start on April 28th and was impressive, retiring the first nine batters he faced, five on strikeouts, and keeping the Miami Marlins off the scoreboard until the 6th inning. But he then tired and allowed three runs to be charged with a 4-2 loss. He was optioned back to Las Vegas after the game. It was his only decision in five major league appearances that year, as he missed significant time with injuries, making only 7 appearances in the minors.

He started 2016 with AAA Las Vegas and also made a couple of relief appearances with the Mets in April, but he struggled badly in the PCL, going 4-6, 7.20 in 16 starts. He was sent down to AA Binghamton where he pitched much better (4-2, 1.70), and from there was called up to make an emergency start in place of Jacob deGrom on August 29th, facing the Miami Marlins and their ace, Jose Fernandez with the two teams in the hunt for a wild card slot. He could have wilted under the pressure, but instead pitched 5 scoreless innings, managing to work his way around 6 walks, putting the Mets in a position to win the game, 2-1, in 10 innings. Overall, he went 0-1, 8.01 in 9 games, including 3 starts, totaling 19 innings. He was not expected to be a front-line contributor to the Mets in 2017, as on paper the team had one of the strongest starting rotations in the majors, but injuries quickly took their toll, and he was called on to lend a hand. However, results were far from great, as at the end of May, he was 0-4 with an ERA of 8.24. He pitched somewhat better over the next few months, but on August 27th was still at 2-9, and while he had managed to lower his ERA, it stood at an unimpressive 5.64. He managed to pitch a rare gem on August 30th, however, a year and a day after his best start of 2016, this time facing the Cincinnati Reds. He had a one-hitter going into the 9th inning before he ran out of gas, but still held Cincinnati scoreless on 3 hits in 8 1/3 innings to gain credit for a 2-0 win in what was the best performance of his career thus far. He finished the year at 5-11, 5.52, pitching 119 innings.

With the return to health of the Mets' front-line starters in 2018, he went into spring training looking for a potential job as a long reliever. However, his hopes of making the team were dashed during the last week of camp, as he suffered a torn ulnar collateral ligament and had to undergo Tommy John surgery, wiping out his season. By the time he returned to the mound in 2019, it was with the Texas Rangers as he had signed with them as a free agent that January. In 22 games, all in relief, he went 2-0, 2.48, with 34 strikeouts and just 5 walks in 29 innings. In 2020 he pitched 17 times during the abbreviated season, going 0-1, 4.08, but recording a team-high 8 saves. On December 15th, he was traded to the Seattle Mariners in return for P Jose Corniell and a player to be named later (Andres Mesa). He did not pitch particularly well for Seattle over the first four months of the 2021 season, going 5-3 with 7 saves but a bloated ERA of 7.27 in 40 games. In fact, he had just been designated for assignment when on July 27th he was traded to the Houston Astros along with another reliever, Kendall Graveman, who had pitched lights out, for IF Abraham Toro and P Joe Smith. he only pitched four times for Houston after the trade, giving up just one unearned run in six innings, but did not appear in the postseason.

In 2022, he was one of the top relievers for an Astros team that posted the best record in the American League with 106 wins. He went 5-2, 2.37 in 71 games, with 14 saves and 73 strikeouts in 68 1/3 innings. He was manager Dusty Baker's main option when he did not want to use closer Ryan Pressly to finish a game, and also picked up 23 holds as the main set-up man on the team. This time, he was used extensively in the postseason, picking up a win while pitching 3 1/3 innings in the Astros' sweep of the Seattle Mariners in the Division Series. He pitched another three times against the New York Yankees in another sweep in the ALCS, then made one of the most important outings of his career in Game 4 of the World Series against the Philadelphia Phillies on November 2nd. He came into that game in the 8th inning after Cristian Javier had pitched six no-hit innings and Bryan Abreu had in turn struck out the side in order in the 7th. He kept the no-hitter going by retiring the Phillies in order in his inning of work, striking out Alec Bohm on a foul tip, then getting Bryson Stott and Jean Segura to fly out. he then passed the baton to Pressly, who completed only the second no-hitter in World Series history, after Don Larsen's perfect game in the 1956 World Series, and the third in postseason play as the Astros won, 5-0, to even the series. He pitched one more time in the series, in Game 5, and even though it was his worst outing of the postseason, as he gave up a run in a third of an inning, the Astros went on to win the championship in six games.

In 2023, he had an off year, posting an ERA of 5.08 in 68 games, with a 3-3 record and 1 save. However, he was excellent in the Division Series against the Minnesota Twins, with no runs allowed 2 2/3 innings on just one hit and one walk but 5 strikeouts, but in the Astros' loss to the Texas Rangers in the ALCS, he gave up 3 runs in 2 1/3 innings. He did not have a decision in either series.

Notable Achievements[edit]

Further Reading[edit]

  • Anthony Castrovince: "World Series no-hitter! Javier, bullpen shut down Phils in Game 4: Astros combine for second no-no in Fall Classic history to knot Series at 2-2", mlb.com, November 3, 2022. [1]
  • Sarah Langs: "Incredible facts and stats about the Astros' Game 4 no-hitter", mlb.com, November 3, 2022. [2]


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