Montero labors with pitch count, exits in 5th

Righty allows 3 runs in 4 2/3 innings on 108 pitches

Montero labors with pitch count, exits in 5th

ATLANTA -- Right-hander Rafael Montero didn't have his best stuff Friday night, but he continued to show promise as a starter in the Mets' rotation.

Montero went 4 2/3 innings and allowed three runs on seven hits in a 3-2 loss to the Braves at SunTrust Park. It was his sixth time in his past seven starts that he allowed three or fewer runs.

However, he became unglued in the fifth inning. The Braves drove up his pitch count and forced him to work in and out of trouble.

"I wouldn't say that this is my best start," Montero said through an interpreter.

He was finished after making 108 pitches, 72 for strikes. He showed growth in trusting his fastball command as he kept the Mets in the game, a promising sign moving forward.

"The pitch count started going up," Montero said. "I try to take it as something that is going to happen every now and then. It is something that I got to work on to make sure it doesn't happen again."

High pitch counts are something that Montero admitted that he needs to work on, but he has shown an ability to be more effective. Mets manager Terry Collins said he believes Montero can find a rhythm moving forward.

"He has the stuff for it," Collins said. "We challenged him to throw strikes, and he went down to work at it and came back throwing strikes. When he gets in trouble, he starts to fall behind in counts. His stuff plays here, and he has done a good job for us. We are talking about a guy who is pitching in the rotation in September for the first time. It will be a test for him."

The Mets hope the rotation can go deeper into games and help alleviate some pressure off the bullpen. Collins said he hopes the starters can provide more innings as needed.

"The issue is we can't get five innings out of our starting pitchers," Collins said. "It wears on the bullpen as we have 10 guys down there and they are pitching every night or sometimes back to back. ... We are scrambling to find bodies as we have pitched them so much."

Montero hopes to provide more innings as he looks for a strong finish to the season.

"I am OK with what I did at the beginning, but hopefully I am going to keep working to get back steady," he said.

Jaylon Thompson is a reporter for MLB.com based in Atlanta. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.