The Mike Montgomery All-Stars: World Series-clinching pitchers don’t always have high-profile departures

The Mike Montgomery era has ended in Chicago. The lanky left-hander has been a regular presence on the Cubs’ pitching staff since he was acquired in a trade with Seattle in July 2016, making 119 appearances (including 38 starts) but he was traded to Kansas City on Monday.

Cubs fans will forever know him for one moment: With the Cubs protecting a one-run lead with two outs in the 10th inning Game 7 of the 2016 World Series, Montgomery was the man on the mound trying to end more than a century of championship drought. And he got the job done, inducing a weak grounder that turned into the third out.

That got us wondering about the other pitchers who have closed out World Series clinchers in the past decade, and how their time with that team ended. So here we go …

2018: Chris Sale, Red Sox

The end of the World Series: Boston closer Craig Kimbrel’s October was rocky, to say the least (5.91 ERA in nine appearances), and he’d allowed two runs in his lone Game 4 inning the night before. So manager Alex Cora turned to ace Chris Sale to lock down a four-run lead in the ninth inning of Game 5, with the Red Sox on the verge of closing out the series. Good call. Sale struck out all three batters he faced that inning in dominating fashion, putting an exclamation point on Boston’s championship.

How his time with the Red Sox ended: Still there, obviously. He signed a five-year, $145 million extension with Boston that kicks in starting with the 2020 season.

2017: Charlie Morton, Astros

The end of the World Series: Morton came into Game 7 in the sixth inning, with Houston up 5-0, and basically said, “I’ve got this, fellas.” He gave up one run in his first inning of work, but then retired the final 11 batters he faced as the Astros cruised to the Game 7 victory. Morton was brilliant in his Game 4 start, too; he finished the series with 11 strikeouts and only seven base runners allowed in 10 1/3 innings against the Dodgers.

How his time with the Astros ended: Morton was an All-Star with the Astros in 2018, posting a 3.13 ERA in 30 starts, but for some reason Houston opted to let him leave as a free agent after the season. He signed a two-year, $30 million deal with the Rays and he currently leads the AL in both ERA (2.35) and FIP (2.79).

2016: Mike Montgomery, Cubs

The end of the World Series: This was a Game 7 for the books, between two franchises desperate to end long World Series droughts. The Cubs led 6-3, but Cleveland scored three times in the eighth – the big blow a homer by Rajai Davis off closer Aroldis Chapman – to send the game to extra innings. The Cubs scored twice in the 10th, and C.J. Edwards retired the first two batters he faced in the bottom of the 10th. But Brandon Guyer walked and Davis singled and manager Joe Maddon turned to Montgomery. He induced a weak grounder that charging third baseman Kris Bryant fielded and threw to Anthony Rizzo for the final out.

How his time with the Cubs ended: Montgomery bounced between the rotation (33 starts) and bullpen (49 relief appearances) the next two years, and was exclusively a reliever in 2019. As mentioned in the intro, he was traded to the Royals on Monday.

2015: Wade Davis, Royals

The end of the World Series: With Kansas City up in the series 3-1, Game 5 was a thriller. Matt Harvey was brilliant for the Mets, shutting the Royals out for eight innings, but K.C. scored twice in that frame to send the game to extras. After three scoreless frames, the Royals broke open the floodgates, scoring five times in the top of the 12th. Enter closer Wade Davis, who struck out three of the four Mets he faced to close out the series for the Royals.

How his time with the Royals ended: Davis was excellent when healthy again in 2016 (1.87 ERA, 27 saves in 30 chances), but the Royals traded the free-agent-to-be after the season. Davis went to Chicago in exchange for Jorge Soler, who struggled in his first few years with the Royals but has 25 homers so far in 2019.

2014: Madison Bumgarner, Giants

The end of the World Series: With the Giants up 3-2 in Game 7, manager Bruce Bochy gave the ball to Bumgarner, his ace, in the fifth inning despite that he’d thrown a complete-game shutout in Game 5, just a few days earlier. He allowed a single to the first batter he faced, then retired the next 15 Kansas City hitters. With two outs, Alex Gordon hit a line drive that skipped past center fielder Gregor Blanco and rolled all the way to the wall. Gordon raced around the infield. He stopped at third base – some K.C. fans will swear he could have scored (spoiler: a good throw would have gotten him) – and Bumgarner retired Sal Perez to end the series.

How his time with the Giants ended: Still there, for now.

2013: Koji Uehara, Red Sox

The end of the World Series: The Red Sox jumped out to a 6-0 lead in Game 6. The Cardinals scored once in the seventh, but Brandon Workman retired all three hitters he faced in the eighth and Uehara did the same in the ninth to wrap up the series for the Sox.

How his time with the Red Sox ended: Uehara was a reliable piece of the Boston bullpen through the 2016 season, racking up a 2.57 ERA in 157 games after he closed out the 2013 World Series. He signed with the Cubs as a free agent before the 2017 season.

2012: Sergio Romo, Giants

The end of the World Series: After the Giants scored a run in the 10th inning of Game 4 to snag a 4-3 lead – Marco Scutaro singled to drive home Ryan Theriot – they gave the ball to Sergio Romo. He had been perfect in recording saves in Games 2 and 3 – six up, six down – and this was was no different. Romo retired all three batters he faced, all via the strikeout, and the Giants closed out a sweep of the Tigers.

How his time with the Giants ended: Romo was as much a part of those Giants championship teams as anyone. He’d been drafted by the franchise in 2005, as a 28th-round pick, and stayed through the 2016 season, compiling a 2.58 ERA in 515 games for San Francisco. Midway through February 2017, he signed as a free agent with the Dodgers.

2011: Jason Motte, Cardinals

The end of the World Series: As dramatic as Game 6 was – the Cardinals were down to their last strike twice – Game 7 was pretty anticlimactic. Both teams scored twice in the first inning, but St. Louis added a run in the third, two in the fifth and one in the seventh to grab a commanding 6-2 lead. Motte retired all three batters he faced, on 11 pitches, to close out the Cardinals’ 11th World Series title in franchise history.

How his time with the Cardinals ended: Motte led the NL with 42 saves in 2012, but missed 2013 and part of 2014 after Tommy John surgery. He signed with the Cubs as a free agent after the season.

2010: Brian Wilson, Giants

The end of the World Series: Giants starter Tim Lincecum was brilliant in Game 5, striking out 10 and allowing just three hits and one run in eight innings. With San Francisco holding a 3-1 lead, Wilson entered and struck out Josh Hamilton to start the ninth, then whiffed Nelson Cruz to close out the series. It was the end of a brilliant playoff run for Wilson, who allowed only a single unearned run and struck out 16 in 11 2/3 innings.

How his time with the Giants ended: Wilson was an All-Star in 2011, but 2012 was lost to injury, as was most of 2013. He signed with the Dodgers in July 2013.

2009: Mariano Rivera, Yankees

The end of the World Series: With the Yankees ahead 7-3, in Game 6, manager Joe Girardi wasted no time going to his future Hall of Famer. With one out in the eighth, Rivera was called on to protect the lead. He wasn’t perfect – he gave up a double in the eighth and a walk in the ninth, but the Phillies didn’t score and their chances ended with a Shane Victorino ground-out to second base.

How his time with the Yankees ended: Rivera retired after the 2013 season – 44 saves and a 2.11 ERA – then was immediately drafted by the Hall of Fame. Well, as soon as possible, as emphatically as possible.

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