SEATTLE — Rookie left-hander Mike Montgomery was in all kinds of trouble Tuesday night in the first inning against the club that had once drafted him in the hope that he could front their rotation for several years.
Kansas City had the bases loaded with no outs.
Montgomery escaped that jam. He also worked around a threat in the second inning before going into shutdown mode and pitching the Seattle Mariners to a 7-0 victory at Safeco Field.
Oh, it was special.
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“I probably had a little more emotion going in than I normally do,” Montgomery said. “I know a lot of those guys, and I was with them for five years (in the minors). That’s definitely a little extra added onto it.”
The Mariners backed Montgomery (2-2) with a balanced attack against Royals starter Jeremy Guthrie, who matched zeroes with Montgomery for three innings but gave up three runs in the fourth and three more in the fifth.
Dustin Ackley was Guthrie’s chief tormentor.
Ackley went 3-for-3, including a single in the three-run fourth and a two-run homer that capped the three-run fifth. Ackley is 9-for-13 in his career against Guthrie (5-5) with three homers.
“That’s one of those things you can’t really explain,” Ackley said. “I was behind in the count a lot today, but I was still able to find some barrels and have some success.”
Seth Smith also had two hits in three at-bats against Guthrie, including an RBI single in the fifth. He is 6-for-9 in his career against Guthrie.
The Mariners also got two hits from Robinson Cano, a key RBI single from Mike Zunino and a homer from Logan Morrison. But the story was Montgomery, who shackled the reigning American League champions.
“He didn’t need many runs, really,” Ackley said. “He needed one. That was it. That was about as good of a performance that I’ve seen, especially the circumstances of him pitching against his former team.”
Montgomery escaped that jam in the first inning (VIDEO LINK), then struck out three straight hitters in the second inning after the Royals put runners at first and second with no outs.
That started Montgomery on a run of retiring 16 straight hitters before a two-out error by shortstop Brad Miller halted the run in the seventh inning.
“Once that third inning came,” Montgomery said, “I just said, `OK, I feel good with what I’m doing.’ A switch flipped, and I had confidence in really all of my stuff.”
Montgomery gave up just four hits while striking out 10 and walking none in a 105-pitch performance that was…well, pretty much what the Royals believed he could do as he struggled for years in the minors.
“He is that good,” said Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer, who was Montgomery’s roommate in 2011 at Triple- A Omaha. “I knew it would just be a matter of time.”
The Mariners acquired Montgomery, still just 25, from Tampa Bay in a March 31 trade for Erasmo Ramirez. That was a little over two years after the Rays got him from the Royals in the James Shields/Wil Myers trade.
Montgomery finally got a big-league shot this season when injuries to Hisashi Iwakuma and James Paxton created openings in the Mariners’ rotation.
Iwakuma is currently on the rehab trail and figures to be ready to return to active duty by early next month. Montgomery had loomed as the likely odd-man out.
Now? Who knows?
The Mariners broke through in the fourth after after Kyle Seager’s one-out walk. He moved to third on Smith’s single. Ackley’s soft pop to left fell for a single, but Seager had to hold third.
Miller worked back from an 0-2 hole for a run-scoring walk, and Zunino flicked an RBI single (VIDEO LINK) into left for a 2-0 lead. Morrison’s fielder’s-choice grounder to short added another run.
The Mariners extended their lead after Cano’s leadoff double in the fifth. Guthrie retired the next two hitters, but Smith lined a shift-beating RBI single into right for a 4-0 lead.
Ackley followed with a two-run homer, (VIDEO LINK) and it was 6-0. The ball hit the top of the wall in right-center field and kicked over.
By then, Montgomery was rolling.
“I know (many of the Royals),” Montgomery said, “and I understand they’re good. Once you get out there, it’s business. But it’s fun, though, because I played with them for a couple of years.
“To now face them in them in the big leagues was a cool experience. I’ll remember it for a long time.”