Montgomery battles in rough day for Mariners

Lefty logs 7 strikeouts in 5 frames as defense commits 4 errors

Montgomery battles in rough day for Mariners

SEATTLE -- How do you judge a starting pitcher on a day his defense commits four errors, the offense goes kerplunk in every key situation and your team throws out its biggest clunker of the year in an 8-1 loss to the Astros?

For Mariners skipper Scott Servais, the answer was simple. Mike Montgomery, making his second start of the season, deserved a better fate than Sunday's lackluster loss on a sunny afternoon at Safeco Field.

"I actually give him a ton of credit." Servais said. "He could have wilted and fell apart there. It's not easy, the way we weren't helping behind him. But he got through the first and second with nobody out situations. He punches out a couple guys and gets out of it. It says a lot about him. He just kept pitching, kept going and I give him some credit for that, no doubt."

Promoted from the bullpen to bail out a rotation that has Felix Hernandez and Taijuan Walker on the disabled list, Montgomery was outstanding in a spot start in Kansas City in the final game before the All-Star break. He didn't fare as well on Sunday, yielding seven hits with four runs (three earned) in five innings, but much of the blame fell elsewhere as the Mariners played what Servais aptly called "hands down the worst game we've played all year."

Montgomery wasn't about to point fingers as he fell to 3-4 with a 2.34 ERA in 32 appearances this season.

"I just tried to battle," said the 27-year-old lefty. "I knew going into this game that these guys were hot, they're swinging good bats. So it was just go out there and battle and make good pitches, and unfortunately it wasn't enough today."

Montgomery's one big mistake was a 3-0 fastball to Jose Altuve that wound up being a two-run homer in the third. Altuve went 4-for-5 for his fifth four-hit game of the season as he raised his American League-leading average to .346.

"I thought there were some good things," Montgomery said. "I got out of some jams and at the end of the day, it was just a matter of Altuve is a good hitter, he had some good swings on me. It was a matter of limiting the damage. I felt I did an OK job with that, but it wasn't enough."

With Hernandez rejoining the club on Wednesday, either Montgomery or recent addition Wade LeBlanc will likely lose their rotation spots. Given Montgomery's immense value in the bullpen, it appears he'll likely be back in that role soon.

"We have to do what's best for the team overall," Servais said. "I thought Mike's stuff was fine. They're an aggressive team and they jumped on some first-pitch fastballs. He battled and hung in there. Obviously the two-run homer on the 3-0 pitch to Altuve hurt. Altuve showed the kind of player he is today. He didn't miss a whole lot out there. But we'll see where we're at here, getting through the first home stand and go from there."

Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.