The Oakland A’s rotation was the team’s top strength this season, the best groups of starters they’ve had in years. Now one of them has a new place in the franchise record books to show for it.
On Friday against the Houston Astros, Frankie Montas earned his 200th strikeout of the summer. That makes him the fifth Oakland pitcher ever to reach that mark in a season.
- 301: Vida Blue, in 1971
- 205: Dave Stewart, in 1987
- 205: Todd Stottlemyre, in 1995
- 205: Barry Zito, in 2001
- 200 (so far): Frankie Montas, in 2021
With one more start to go this week, he still has the chance to pass the three-way tie above him and move up into second place behind Blue. It only took Montas 181 innings to rack up his total, far fewer than anybody else on the list — Stottlemyre was closest at 209⅔ frames, and Blue led the way with 312.
This achievement is a worthy symbol of an excellent campaign by Montas, one in which the right-hander got stronger as the summer went along. He struggled in April, settled down in May and June, then pitched like an ace since July, with a sparkling 2.38 ERA and 3.01 FIP in his past 16 outings. He’s registered a dozen quality starts in his last 14 tries, often working seven innings at a time.
The milestone strikeout came Friday against Carlos Correa, and it was Montas’ eighth of the game. He got Correa five times this year, tied with Seattle’s Kyle Seager for second-most, after Houston’s Yordan Alvarez with eight in a dozen plate appearances.
With strikeouts on the rise around the sport, Montas’ total only ranks 12th in the majors, or fourth in the American League. But it’s been two decades since we’ve seen anyone reach 200 in Oakland, with the most recent near-miss being Gio Gonzalez with 197 in 2011, followed by Sonny Gray with 183 in 2014. Sean Manaea joins that honorable mention list this year, at 188 right now with one more start to go — unless he can fan a dozen Astros in his final appearance!
Looking back further in franchise history, the Philadelphia A’s authored nine more seasons of 200 strikeouts, back when pitchers routinely threw over 300 innings. Rube Waddell did it five times, including the franchise record of 349 in 1904 (in 383 frames); Eddie Plank did it twice; and Lefty Grove did it once, all them Hall of Famers. Jack Coombs also got there once in 1910, with only Grove’s coming later than that in 1930.
Now Montas has done it too, during an era in which strikeout rates are up but workloads have never been lower. As the rest of Oakland’s pitching staff began to wear down and get injured late in the summer, Montas kept getting better, doing everything he could to keep the rotation afloat including stopping a couple team losing streaks. He looked like the breakout star we began to see in the first half of 2019 before his suspension.
Even though there won’t be a postseason trip at the end of the journey, the club’s record books will have a special place for Montas’ performance.
Frankie Montas on reaching 200 strikeouts: “That was one of my goals coming into the season. I told all the guys I just want to stay healthy and get 200 strikeouts. To accomplish that goal is huge. I’m pretty happy right now. I’ve learned from all the guys in the rotation.”— Martín Gallegos (@MartinJGallegos) September 25, 2021