Montgomery struggles again to find June form

Mariners rookie left-hander allows nine runs over 2 1/3 innings

Montgomery struggles again to find June form

BOSTON -- Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon said there's no mystery to the recent struggles of rookie southpaw Mike Montgomery, whose impressive initial run in Seattle took another tough hit in Friday's 15-1 loss to the Red Sox.

"It's really not hard to analyze," McClendon said after Montgomery gave up a career-high 10 hits and nine runs in just 2 1/3 innings. "If you look at the film, you see a lot of balls waist-high, middle of the plate, up out over the plate. Just no deception at all. And big league hitters are not going to miss those pitches. You have to work down in the zone, you have to work in and out and he just didn't do that."

Montgomery was sensational in June for the Mariners, going 3-2 with 1.62 ERA in his first seven starts, including back-to-back shutouts over the Royals and Padres. The 26-year-old's one-hit gem in a 5-0 win in San Diego on June 30 was one of the Seattle's season highlights, as he became just the 12th Major League rookie since 1980 to throw consecutive shutouts.

But since then, the wheels have wobbled as Montgomery is 0-3 with an 7.99 ERA in his past seven outings as he's dropped to 4-5 with a 4.14 ERA in 14 starts since replacing the injured James Paxton.

"It's tough because there are a lot of good hitters and it just makes it where you have to be on top of your game so you don't get embarrassed out there," Montgomery said. "It always comes back down to executing pitches. That's what it's about and that's what I'm going to continue to try to do the best I can."

The Red Sox jumped on Montgomery quickly in his Fenway Park debut, scoring three runs on four hits -- including a two-run homer by Rusney Castillo -- in the first. McClendon then was forced to pull the plug after Montgomery gave up six straight hits -- with another two-run blast by Travis Shaw -- with just one out in the third.

With J.A. Happ traded to the Pirates on July 31 and Paxton still weeks away from returning from a strained finger, the Mariners don't have a lot of viable options to replace Montgomery. Cuban left-hander Roenis Elias would be the logical choice, but he's posted a 7.93 ERA in eight starts in Triple-A Tacoma since being sent down when Hisashi Iwakuma came off the disabled list.

McClendon said the Mariners will stick with their young lefty.

"We have to get him fixed," McClendon said.

Between Triple-A Tacoma and the Mariners, Montgomery has now thrown 135 2/3 innings, compared to the 126 he totaled last year with the Rays' Triple-A club. But he threw 150 innings in 2012 and 149 in '13 in the Minors, and McClendon doesn't believe he's tiring at this point.

"I don't think he's fatigued," McClendon said. "I really don't. I think he was just bad. He's throwing 93 mph. He's just up in the zone. He's got to get the ball down."

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.