PITTSBURGH — It wasn’t the best start of left-hander Mike Montgomery’s career. After all, he threw back-to-back shutouts as a rookie with the Mariners in 2015.
It wasn’t Montgomery’s signature moment with the Cubs. You haven’t forgotten Game 7 of the 2016 World Series already, have you?
It wasn’t even the first time Montgomery — usually a reliever — took the ball to start a game for the Cubs and completely shut down the National League Central rival Pirates. Last August at Wrigley Field, he held them to one run in seven sterling innings.
Yet Montgomery’s gem in the Cubs’ 7-0 victory Monday was special. He threw 5 2/3 nearly spotless innings in his first start of 2018, allowing two hits and facing one batter more than the minimum.
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And he did so when his team needed it most. The bullpen worked 6 1/3 innings in the Cubs’ victory Sunday night against the Giants at Wrigley Field, and the team had very little time to gather itself for an early-afternoon road game.
‘‘I wanted to be that guy that gave them that boost of energy,’’ said Montgomery, who traveled alone Sunday afternoon to Pittsburgh so he would be rested for his outing.
Something else that meant a lot to Montgomery was pitching on Memorial Day.
‘‘It means a lot,’’ he said. ‘‘I’ve got family members in active service, and I think it’s really cool for me to be a part of that in some way. It kind of gave me a little extra motivation.’’
Depending on the status of right-hander Yu Darvish, who is on the 10-day disabled list, Montgomery might get another start Saturday against the Mets in New York. Given the struggles of right-hander Tyler Chatwood, his presence is comforting.
‘‘He was outstanding,’’ manager Joe Maddon said. ‘‘I didn’t expect that much when I thought of [starting] him. He kept getting better.’’
Two days after being called up from Class AAA Iowa, 35-year-old catcher Chris Gimenez made his first start for the Cubs and got his first two hits with the team. Both hits came against Pirates starter Chad Kuhl.
Considering Gimenez’s contributions behind the plate to a combined shutout by Montgomery and relievers Steve Cishek, Justin Wilson, Pedro Stop and Luke Farrell, it wasn’t a bad day at all for a guy most Cubs fans know only as a potential personal catcher for Darvish.
Farrell up, Hancock down
Farrell was recalled from Iowa before the game, swapping places with reliever Justin Hancock. The move was made primarily as a safeguard in case Montgomery had a short outing; Farrell would have come on in long relief. Instead, he delivered an inning of mop-up duty.