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Bailey, Montero square off as Mets host Reds

NEW YORK -- Rafael Montero is trying to use the final month of an otherwise lost season for the New York Mets to convince team executives he's capable of being a member their rotation going forward.

Homer Bailey is aiming to prove to the last-place Cincinnati Reds that he can rediscover the prime form he enjoyed before arm injuries threatened to derail his career.

Two pitchers looking to establish a foundation for 2018 will square off Saturday night, when the Mets host the Reds in the third game of a four-game series at Citi Field.

Montero (4-9, 5.21 ERA) will be looking to win his third straight start when he opposes Bailey (4-7, 7.24 ERA), who hasn't won in his last four appearances.

The Mets earned a 5-1 victory Friday night when Jose Reyes homered twice and have won the first two games by a combined score of 12-3.

Montero won a second consecutive start for the first time as a major leaguer last Monday, when he gave up four runs over 5 1/3 innings as the Mets beat the Philadelphia Phillies, 11-7.

The winning streak began against the Reds on Aug. 30, when Montero had the best game of his career by tossing 8 1/3 scoreless innings in the Mets' 2-0 victory at Great American Ball Park. Montero carried a one-hit shutout into the ninth before RHP A.J. Ramos recorded the final two outs.

Since being promoted from Triple-A Las Vegas for the fourth time this season June 14, Montero has gone 4-5 with a 4.44 ERA to lower his overall ERA by more than three runs from 8.24 to 5.21.

More importantly to the Mets (62-79), Montero has proven he's taken the advice of his elders and his teammates by striking out 75 and walking 35 in 77 innings. He began the year by recording 20 strikeouts and 17 walks in his first 19 2/3 big league innings.

"Before we sent him down the last time, he was told by pitching coach (Dan Warthen), by me, by others, his own peers: If you can't throw the ball over the plate, you can't pitch here," Mets manager Terry Collins said Monday afternoon. "And he went down to (Las Vegas) and threw strikes. And he's come back and he's done exactly the same thing he did in the minor leagues."

Bailey didn't factor into the decision in his most recent start Monday, when he allowed three runs over six-plus innings in the Reds' 5-4 win over the Milwaukee Brewers. He carried a three-hit shutout into the seventh before tiring and allowing all three batters he faced to reach and eventually score.

Still, the start continued a gradual improvement for Bailey, who has been limited to just 22 starts the last three seasons due to a pair of Tommy John surgery in 2015, a biceps injury last year and an operation to remove bone spurs in February.

In his last three starts, Bailey is 0-1 with a 3.00 ERA to drop his overall ERA from 8.44 to a season-low 7.24 for the Reds (61-81), who are assured of a fourth straight non-winning season.

"I don't think there's anything that's standing in his way of coming back and pitching effectively with the type of command and stuff that we've seen before," Reds manager Bryan Price said Friday afternoon. "I don't know about velocity, if he'll get back up to that upper 90s that he would throw. But when he's at 89 to 94, he can still manage a game very well with that type of stuff. I'm not terribly hesitant in placing my confidence in his ability to return to form next year."

Montero is 1-0 with a 2.13 ERA in two career starts against the Reds. Bailey is 1/3 with a 6.28 ERA in five career starts against the Mets.

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