Mike Montgomery has been the Tacoma Rainiers’ most consistent starting pitcher this season, ranking among the Pacific Coast League’s leaders in the statistical categories most indicative of strong command.
But he didn’t have it on Friday night against the visiting Salt Lake Bees at Cheney Stadium. And the Rainiers’ bullpen didn’t fare much better.
Montgomery walked five batters — he’d walked seven in six starts before Friday — and lasted only 41/3 innings in Tacoma’s 10-6 loss to Salt Lake before a crowd of 5,248.
The Bees left Tacoma with a series victory after taking three of four.
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This loss certainly wasn’t all on Montgomery, the 25-year-old left-hander who entered Friday’s game ranked third in the PCL in baserunners allowed per nine innings. After Montgomery exited the game with runners on first and second and one out in the fifth inning — with Tacoma already trailing 2-1 — reliever Lucas Luetge walked the first batter he faced, hit the next batter to force in a run, then allowed a grand slam to right-fielder Alfredo Marte that gave the Bees a 7-1 lead.
Of Montgomery, Rainiers manager Pat Listach said: “He had good stuff. He used all his pitches, but just didn’t command any of them, and at this level, you’ve got to command more than one pitch to have success.”
Listach said Montgomery was on an 85-90 pitch limit after throwing 112 in his previous start. He threw 86 on Friday, but “unfortunately,” Listach said, “he got there quicker than we wanted him to.”
The Bees kept scoring in the next inning, too, using four singles, another hit batter and a fielder’s choice to tack on three more runs, each of them against Rainiers reliever Cam Hobson.
In fact, Tacoma’s most effective reliever on Friday was Leury Bonilla, the veteran super-utility man who started the game at third base. Thursday’s doubleheader depleted the Rainers’ bullpen, so Bonilla — who homered in the third inning, scored on Ketel Marte’s RBI single in the seventh and drove in a run with a single in the eighth — took the mound in the eighth inning for the 10th pitching appearance of his career.
Throwing mostly fastballs and changeups with an occasional slider mixed in, he hit a batter and walked another, but escaped that inning unscathed, then tossed a scoreless ninth, too.
“I know if I throw strikes, they can hit it or not hit it. I can’t control that,” Bonilla said. “But I can control strikes.”
Listach praised Bonilla effusively for his versatility.
“He’s here because he can play every position on the field,” Listach said. “He’s here because if we need an emergency for him to pitch, he can pitch. If we need him to catch, he can catch. If we need him to hit fungos, he can hit fungos. He’s just a great guy, a great player to have on our team and in our organization. Not many other guys would have gone out there and grabbed the ball and thrown two innings today, and thrown two scoreless and hit a home run at the same time.”
A pair of doubles by Patrick Kivlehan and Leon Landry, followed by Bonilla’s single, allowed the Rainiers to score two runs and trim the deficit to 10-5 in the bottom of the eighth. John Baker drove in Marte with a sacrifice fly in the ninth, but Kivlehan flew out to deep center field to end the game.
The Rainiers begin a four-game series against the Las Vegas 51s with a 5:05 p.m. game Saturday at Cheney Stadium. Tacoma will start right-hander Justin Germano (2-1, 1.74 ERA) against 51s right-hander Tyler Pill (1-0, 6.43).
Christian Caple: 253-597-8437