Montgomery takes big step forward

Montgomery takes big step forward

SEATTLE -- While the Mariners' bullpen continues to spring leaks, Seattle got a much-needed solid start from rookie southpaw Mike Montgomery on Monday in a 4-3, 10-inning loss to the D-backs.

Manager Lloyd McClendon said his bullpen's woes are largely because it's been overtaxed due to too many short outings from the rotation, but Montgomery overcame a shaky first two innings to throw 6 2/3 innings of five-hit ball in his 11th start of the season.

The 26-year-old lasted a season-low 2 2/3 innings in his prior start and on Monday gave up three runs -- including solo homers to Paul Goldschmidt and Welington Castillo -- in the first two frames.

But the lefty settled in after that, allowing just one hit over his final 4 2/3 innings to leave a positive impression and signal another step forward in a season when he's gone 4-4 with a 3.20 ERA in 11 starts while filling in for the injured James Paxton.

"Monty did a nice job," said McClendon. "It was a little shaky early on. He settled down and gave us 6 2/3. That was big for us."

"I felt good from the beginning," Montgomery said. "There really was just two mistakes on the home runs and they took advantage. Sometimes you get away with it, but Goldschmidt and Castillo, they took advantage. After that, I felt a lot better finding my fastball command, and that was the difference in going deep."

This was an important game for Montgomery, who had gone 4-2 with a 1.62 ERA in his first seven starts, but 0-2 with a 9.22 ERA In his last three. So while he wound up with a no-decision, this was definitely a step in the right direction.

"My mentality was let's attack with the fastball, get some early outs with ground balls, and just try to go deep in the game," he said. "After they scored the three runs, it was battle mode. Hey, they scored three runs, but they're not getting any more. That was my mindset after that."

And he showed something with his recovery from what could have been a disastrous start, limiting the damage to two runs (one earned) in the second inning after a bases-loaded error on shortstop Brad Miller allowed the second run to score.

Montgomery dug in at that point, striking out Yasmany Tomas and getting Goldschmidt to ground out to keep the game at 3-1.

"He gave up the homer in the first and homer in the second, but he bounced back and shut the door," said catcher Mike Zunino. "I think it's going to speak a lot about these pitchers. It's how you bounce back. If they can keep us in games and limit the damage, hopefully we can score some runs. The offense is scoring a little better and if they can do that, we have a good chance of winning."

Montgomery said he's learning as he goes this season. And in return, the Mariners are learning some things about the former first-round Draft pick of the Royals.

"He's a competitor," Zunino said. "He goes right after guys. He doesn't fear anybody when he's pitching and you love to see that. He's done a great job of that and does a good job making adjustments and that is allowing him to go deeper into ballgames."

Greg Johns is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB, read his Mariners Musings blog, and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.