SEATTLE -- Mike Montgomery figures to have a number of learning moments in his rookie season with the Mariners, so it's not surprising that a fellow named Mike Trout delivered a big one in Friday night's 7-3 loss to the Angels at Safeco Field.
Things had gone stunningly smooth for Montgomery in his initial seven starts in the Majors, with a pair of shutout victories -- including a one-hitter against the Padres -- and three straight wins heading into Friday's showdown with the red-hot Halos.
But Trout snapped a stretch of 26 innings with just one run allowed by Montgomery with a three-run homer in the third inning, and the Angels wound up putting five runs on the board against the 25-year-old southpaw in five-plus frames, the shortest start of his brief MLB career.
"I really thought I threw the ball well and commanded the ball well," said Montgomery. "It's just, you really don't want to let certain guys beat you. That pitch to Trout was really the difference-maker. If there's one guy you don't want to beat you, it's him.
"He's a great hitter, one of the best in the game. You really have to make your pitches to him. I'm just going to keep battling and going forward. I think I made a lot of good pitches tonight and it just didn't work out. Obviously, that's frustrating, but I'll keep going forward."
The pitch Montgomery regretted was a fastball to Trout that was supposed to be up and in, but instead was low and in, right where the reigning American League MVP feasts. It wasn't Montgomery's only miscue, as he preceded that at-bat with a curveball that got away and plunked Kole Calhoun in the back to put two runners on for Trout with one out.
"Obviously, that was costly," said Montgomery.
Those are the kind of mistakes Trout and the Angels have been making opposing pitchers pay for as they've won 10 of their past 12 games to pull within a half-game of the Astros in the AL West.
But Montgomery still owns a 4-3 record and tidy 2.29 ERA, the second-lowest mark by a Mariners pitcher in the first eight starts of his career. James Paxton, the man Montgomery replaced in the rotation six weeks ago, holds the club record with a 1.93 ERA in his initial eight outings in 2013-14.
Montgomery now ranks second on that list, just ahead of the 2.33 ERA that Felix Hernandez posted in his first eight starts in 2005. That's pretty solid company and one of the reasons manager Lloyd McClendon wasn't fretting.
"I've been impressed with how he goes about his business," McClendon said. "He's certainly not intimidated. He has a tremendous work ethic. I like what I see. I think he's got a chance to be pretty good."