SAN DIEGO -- Since being called up four weeks ago to fill in for the injured James Paxton, rookie southpaw Mike Montgomery has opened eyes for the Mariners. But the 25-year-old took it to another level on Tuesday as he allowed just one hit and threw his second straight shutout, this one a 5-0 blanking of the Padres at Petco Park.
Montgomery maneuvered through 6 1/3 innings with three walks and a hit batter before Padres third baseman Yangervis Solarte doubled down the left-field line. But that was all the damage San Diego could muster as Montgomery became the first Mariner to throw a one-hit shutout since Jarrod Washburn in 2009.
Fresh off a five-hit shutout of the Royals, the former Kansas City first-round Draft pick ran his scoreless streak to 18 innings. He's now 3-2 with a 1.62 ERA in six starts. That's the lowest ERA ever by a Mariners starter in the first six starts of a career, breaking the mark of 1.75 set by Paxton in 2013-14.
He became the 12th Major League rookie since 1980 to throw back-to-back shutouts. Seattle pitchers of any experience level have pulled off that feat just seven times, the last being Freddy Garcia in 2001. Randy Johnson had consecutive shutouts on three occasions, Mark Langston did it twice and now Montgomery joins that exclusive list.
"It's an honor, but I really don't think about that too much," Montgomery said. "I'm just trying to be on top of my game and control what I can control. It's pretty cool to look between starts and acknowledge that a little bit because baseball has a great tradition and history to it. But when I go out there, I just try to make good pitches and I don't think about any of that stuff.
"I'm working with the team and [catcher Mike Zunino] and just having some fun with it because it is fun. Having teammates back there making those plays and put up runs, it's just fun for the whole team."
With veteran right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma close to returning from a strained lat muscle that has sidelined him since late April, the Mariners face an interesting choice. Iwakuma threw 5 2/3 innings of one-run ball in his third Minor League rehab start on Tuesday night at Triple-A Tacoma and could be in line to start this Sunday in Oakland on normal rest -- which would be Montgomery's next scheduled start -- if the Mariners chose to bring him back now.
"I don't have those answers," manager Lloyd McClendon said. "I'm sure [general manager Jack Zduriencik] and I will sit down and try to figure all this out."
But Montgomery certainly has stated his case to remain in the Majors. He's allowed two or fewer runs in five of his six starts, with the only blip a four-run outing over 7 1/3 innings against the Giants.
"He goes out and pitches," Zunino said. "He competes. He's not scared to pitch to guys and attack. And that's helped him a lot. He's got good stuff. He's throwing all four pitches for strikes and attacking guys. And that's a good recipe for success."
"He's shown a lot of poise," McClendon said. "I had no idea what to expect when we first got him. Each and every outing, he impresses me even more. Tonight was no different."
Padres interim manager Pat Murphy has seen how far Montgomery has come this year as he was managing at Triple-A El Paso when his team chased Montgomery with five runs in 2 2/3 innings on April 18.
"Coincidentally, we saw this kid in Triple-A earlier in the season and, you know, he didn't fare as well," Murphy said. "He's doing a heck of a job in the big leagues and I guess that's what it's all about, making adjustments. Hats off to him tonight."
Montgomery had started 159 Minor League games without a shutout, but now has two in his first six Major League starts.