Athletics’ Montas back from ban for key start vs. Angels

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Frankie Montas will make his first start in more than three months when he takes the mound for the Oakland A’s on Wednesday night against the Los Angeles Angels in Anaheim, Calif.

Montas was having a breakout season, going 9-2 with a 2.70 ERA in 15 starts, before he was suspended 80 games on June 21 for violating major league baseball’s drug policy after testing positive for a performance-enhancing substance. He is eligible to return to the active roster Wednesday.

His return could be crucial to Oakland’s hopes of wrapping up a playoff berth.

After the A’s fell 3-2 to the Angels on Tuesday in the series opener, Oakland (94-63) has just a half-game lead on the Rays for the top American League wild-card spot. Tampa Bay (94-64) is a half-game ahead of the Cleveland Indians (93-64) for the second wild card.

Montas has been working out at the Athletics’ minor league complex in Arizona and reportedly has built his arm strength up to be able to throw 100 pitches.

“You saw what he meant to our team over the course of the regular season until the issue popped up,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “It’s just another quality guy to have.

“A lot of (his teammates) have kept in touch with him. I’m sure it was hard for him watching from afar, as key a piece as he was for us. In the first half of the season, he would have made the All-Star team. It’s probably hard going through that, but I know he’s excited to be back.”

Going into the final five games of the season, Melvin has to line up his rotation with an eye toward saving a quality starter for a potential wild-card playoff game on Oct. 2. Montas will be ineligible to make Oakland’s postseason roster.

Montas is 2-0 with a 3.94 ERA in three starts against the Angels this season, including his first start of the year, when he limited Los Angeles to one run and three hits in six innings during a March 31 win. In six career appearances (three starts) vs. the Angels, he is 2-0 with a 3.38 ERA.

Left-hander Andrew Heaney (4-6, 5.10 ERA) will start Wednesday for the Angels, his 18th and final start of the season after making a team-leading 30 starts in 2018.

Arm issues kept him out for extended periods both at the start of the season and in the middle of the season. But he also had a superb month of August, going 2-0 with a 1.82 ERA in four starts, striking out 34 and walking only four in 24 2/3 innings, holding opposing hitters to a .169 average.

September, however, has not been good to Heaney, who is 1-3 with a 9.31 ERA in four starts this month. He has given up 12 earned runs in 8 1/3 innings over his last two starts.

One of Heaney’s issues is serving up home runs — he’s allowed 19 in 17 games over 90 innings. Five of the homers came in his past two starts.

“It’s kind of the story of my last few outings,” Heaney said. “It’s hard to stay away. It’s one pitch you would love to look back and take them back, but that’s not how it works.

“I don’t shy away from throwing strikes. I don’t shy away from pounding the strike zone. Those kinds of things are going to bite you sometime.”

Heaney lost his only start against Oakland this season, giving up five runs and six hits in six innings on June 30. A’s third baseman Matt Chapman hit a three-run homer off Heaney in the game.

Heaney is 2-2 with a 4.36 ERA in five career starts vs. the Athletics.

–Field Level Media

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