No matter how much of it you watch, baseball works itself out in ways that still surprise us. Mike Montgomery keeps landing in big moments for the Cubs.
First, he was the unlikely candidate to pitch the last out of the 2016 World Series on a team that at the time had Aroldis Chapman anchoring the bullpen. Now, after starting the season in the bullpen, Montgomery is the one who will take the mound in game 162 of the 2018 season.
A game with so many possible implications that even Montgomery's teammates have had trouble making sense of it all. After Saturday's loss, Ben Zobrist needed a few minutes to sort it all out. On Sunday, the last day of the regular season -- maybe -- Montgomery is the guy charged with the Cubs' fate.
"There’s a little symmetry there," manager Joe Maddon said of the happenstance that has brought Montgomery and the Cubs to this spot.
Montgomery was not even in the rotation when the season started, but injuries and underperformance from other starters took him out of the bullpen, and he has handled the job of starter as well as the team could hope.
For Sunday's start, Maddon said that he doesn't intend to treat Montgomery any differently than he has been all year.
"If he’s out there throwing strikes with his fastball, then the changeup and curve play really well," Maddon said. "And then he pitches 5-6 innings today, easily."
Maddon added that with a full bullpen Sunday, he feels like he can pull Montgomery early if the need is there, but that will be about reading the in-game "tea leaves." Some of that will depend on what's happening in Milwaukee and whether or not the need for a game 163 on Monday becomes apparent.
"I don’t have any preconceived notions about pulling him sooner, except that you’re willing to do so if in fact you have to," Maddon said.
Montgomery is best at 80-90 pitches, Maddon said, so an efficient outing from him could carry into the 6th inning.