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Shades of Moe Drabowsky: Montgomery sharp, moves up power ranking

Mike Montgomery

MILWAUKEE – Take a good look at Mike Montgomery’s strong outing Wednesday in his fourth start for the Cubs. And tune in next week when he makes the one additional start he’s been promised so far.

It could be glimpse into the Cubs’ playoff plans, as a second (non-closer) lefty in the bullpen and potential long man/emergency starter in the first round of the playoffs.

“Just think Moe Drabowsky,” said manager Joe Maddon after the lefty Montgomery shut down the right-handed, lefty-clubbing Brewers lineup on two hits for five innings – allowing just a solo home run – in the Brewers’ 2-1 victory.

“Who?” Montgomery said.

Maddon still won’t talk about the Cubs’ specific playoff-roster plans, even as the Cubs’ magic number for clinching the division title fell to nine with the Cardinals’ loss Wednesday.

But it’s no accident he brought up the Orioles’ right-hander, who came out of the bullpen in the third inning of Game 1 of the 1966 World Series to upstage his team’s vaunted rotation by pitching 6 2/3 innings – striking out 11 – to beat Don Drysdale and the Dodgers on the road and keep the Baltimore bullpen intact. The Orioles went on to sweep the Dodgers.

“A guy like that can be really, really important, absolutely,” Maddon said. “A guy that’s stretched out. If it were to happen early in a series, it could save you for the rest of a series.”

“I will look him up,” said Montgomery, whose Moe-like projection has him at No. 5 on this week’s Sun-Times Cubs rotation power rankings.

“I want to be as valuable as I can to the club,” said Montgomery, who’s being used as a sixth starter for a few turns to pace the rest of the rotation toward October. “I don’t know what’s going to happen come later in the year, but [it’s about] whatever they need; that’s how I feel.”

Rizzo spurns day off, homers again

One day after Maddon said Anthony Rizzo was getting Wednesday night off, the first baseman was back in the lineup after riding a two-homer Tuesday into the manager’s office to talk his way back in – and then he almost duplicated Tuesday’s big performance.

Rizzo, who lined a single off ex-teammate Matt Garza in the first, hit a game-tying homer off Garza in the sixth.

Then trailing 2-1 in the ninth – a half-inning after Jonathan Villar’s second homer – Rizzo skied a one-out fly deep to center off right-hander Tyler Thornburg.

But center fielder Keon Broxton leaped at the wall to rob Rizzo of the shot.

Note: Reliever Justin Grimm pitched to just one batter in the sixth before leaving the game because of a flu-like symptoms. “I did not want him to soil himself on the mound,” Maddon said. “He said he could get through it. I said we’re trying to win, not trying to get through this inning – or anything else through you at this particular moment.”

Sun-Times Cubs rotation power rankings

The Cubs’ major-league-leading rotation has begun to answer some of its own questions about its four playoff starters and their order. This week’s rankings:

  1. Kyle Hendricks (14-7, 2.07) Killing them softly in Cy-caliber season
  2. Jon Lester (15-4, 2.61) Rolling toward a Game 1 playoff start?
  3. Jake Arrieta (16-6, 2.84) 2015 wild-card ace is ’16 playoff wild card
  4. John Lackey (9-7, 3.36) Back from DL and ready for big-boy games
  5. Mike Montgomery (0-0, 3.93) Top long man/emergency starter in NLDS?
  6. Jason Hammel (14-8, 3.50) Clunkers in 3 of 4 GS puts status in doubt

Dropped from rankings: Trevor Cahill (0-0, 0.00). Also NR: Adam Warren (0-0, 1.80, traded to Yankees), Brian Matusz (0-0, 18.00, back in minors). Note: All stats for part-time starters are for Cubs starts only.