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NYY@NYM: Montero holds Yankees to three in MLB debut

As the Mets' second-best pitching prospect behind Noah Syndergaard, right-hander Rafael Montero's standing in the organization is clear.

But given the performance of Jacob deGrom against the Yankees on Thursday and Dillon Gee's impending return from the disabled list on May 26, Montero's standing in the rotation is anything but.

Despite giving up only three runs in six innings against the Yankees on Wednesday, Montero was outdone by deGrom, who surrendered just one run in seven innings one day later. Now, the two have one start each this week to win that final spot.

Montero's audition comes on Tuesday against veteran Dodgers righty Josh Beckett, who is not quite the foe Masahiro Tanaka proved to be Wednesday. Tanaka gave up four hits and struck out eight in a shutout opposite Montero's quality start.

"That's a good pitcher, that's the truth," Montero said through an interpreter following the outing. "You've just got to admit it, that's a good pitcher."

Montero's numbers would have been even better in defeat had Eric Young Jr. played a sinking two-out liner from Brian Roberts on a hop rather than diving for the ball, which bounced past Young to the warning track for an RBI triple.

"[Young] made a mistake," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "He knows it. We're not going to dwell on it. The guy is a max-effort guy. That's the only way he plays. He plays hard and goes after it. If he catches it, he gets a standing ovation."

Beckett knows a thing or two about hard-luck losses like the one Montero took against the Yankees in his Major League debut. Beckett snapped a winless drought of 14 starts when he tossed 6 1/3 scoreless frames against the Marlins on Tuesday.

Beckett credits his 2.28 ERA in his past four starts to Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis, who convinced the right-hander to rely more on his curveball.

"He brought me a sheet of paper showing me that both right-handers and left-handers had trouble hitting my curveball," Beckett said following his most recent turn. "Basically, he was telling me it was time to make a change.

"So, instead of throttling up a fastball, I can throttle back with a curve. I've always had a good curveball, but never a good feel for it, never for strike one. But I threw it [Tuesday eight times on first pitch]. Guys don't hit it, maybe because it's dying anyway, nobody throws it, and hitters don't see them often. And A.J. said a 70-mph curve makes that 90-93-mph fastball look faster."

Mets: Lagares freed
• Juan Lagares started his second consecutive game in center field Sunday, after sitting on the bench for four of the previous five -- a scenario that prompted fans to establish a grassroots "Free Lagares" campaign on Twitter, posting pictures of themselves begging manager Terry Collins to play him. When asked about Lagares situation for the third straight day on Sunday, Collins grew defensive.

"He has been an everyday player," Collins said. "He got into a little bit of a funk. You know, it's not like I sat him for seven days. I sat him for two days, for cripes' sake. We get a little carried away here. Somebody gets a day off and it's like the sky is falling. It's not. He's the center fielder."

Before homering, driving in three runs and robbing a homer on defense in Saturday's win over the Nationals, Lagares had been in a 5-for-27 funk. He and assistant hitting coach Luis Natera spent much of last week working on the center fielder's plate approach and discipline.

Dodgers: Crawford crawling back
• Carl Crawford has hit safely in 11 of his past 12 games, recording a .450 (18-for-40) batting average during that stretch. He has also increased his production with a double, three homers and seven RBIs since May 3.

The hot streak helps put to bed a rough start to the season that saw the outfielder batting just .185 (15-for-81) through his first 85 plate appearances.

Whether he can continue to rake remains to be seen as he owns a .174 (4-for-23) clip in six career games at Citi Field.

Worth noting
• Curtis Granderson is batting .297 (11-for-37) with a double, two triples, three homers, five RBIs, seven walks and 14 strikeouts against Beckett. Meanwhile, Bobby Abreu is batting .177 (14-for-79) with three doubles, two homers, seven RBIs, 21 walks and 25 strikeouts against the right-hander.

• The Dodgers defeated the Mets five times in six meetings last season. The final four games between each club -- all Los Angeles wins -- were decided by two runs or fewer.

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