Montero has ‘fun day’ in M’s win

In his first major-league game at first base, Jesus Montero hits go-ahead 2-run home run

bob.dutton@thenewstribune.comJune 18, 2014 

SEATTLE — OK, the Seattle Mariners see the same thing you see. (Many of you, anyway.) That Jesus Montero, for all his still-substantial baggage, is loaded with tantalizing potential to be a run-producing threat.

And it was Montero who produced the turning point with a two-run homer in the second inning that erased an early deficit and kick-started the Mariners toward a 6-1 victory Tuesday afternoon against the San Diego Padres at Safeco Field.

“Today was a fun day,” Montero said. “I saw that pitch he (Padres starter Eric Stults) was going to throw me, and I hit it really (well). I was using a big bat, too. I put a good swing on the ball, and I got to help the team.”

It was Montero’s first big-league homer in more than a year and … OK, that’s deceptive; the drought was just 31 at-bats because he spent most of the past 13 months either in the minors, learning a new position, injured or serving a drug-related suspension.

Tuesday also marked the first time Montero, a former catcher, played first base in the big leagues. That he remains a defensive work-in-progress was a point manager Lloyd McClendon emphasized in his pregame remarks.

But that bat. Yes, that bat can potentially erase scads of shortcomings in other areas.

“He’s had some obstacles along the way,” McClendon said. “We all know abut those. He’s making amends, and he’s trying to come back, and he’s trying to do the right thing.”

The Mariners also got a two-run homer from Robinson Cano in support of a strong bounce-back effort by rookie lefty Roenis Elias, who improved to 6-5 by limiting the Padres to one run and three hits in seven innings.

Elias lasted a season-low 3 innings while giving up a season-high six runs his previous start — a 6-3 loss to the New York Yankees.

“I had my control,” Elias said through an interpreter. “I went out and did what I was capable of doing and, thank God, it worked out well for us.”

Dominic Leone and Danny Farquhar closed out the Mariners’ third straight victory, which concluded an eight-game homestand that started with five losses.

“The Yankees beat us three games,” McClendon said. “We had an opportunity to win (the first two games) against Texas, and we didn’t take advantage of it. The Yankees just kicked our butt. It’s just that simple.”

Stults (2-9) lasted five innings and threw 102 pitches before exiting in a 4-1 hole. He gave up six hits, including the homers to Montero and Cano.

“I thought his stuff was fine,” Padres manager Buddy Black said. “They stressed him a little bit, and his pitch count was elevated, but he battled and competed like he always does.”

The Mariners (37-34) got their final two runs on Kyle Seager’s two-out, bases-loaded bloop double in the seventh against reliever Tim Stauffer.

Elias retired the first five Padres before former Mariner Rene Rivera rocked a 1-1 fastball into the left-field seats for a two-out homer and a 1-0 San Diego lead.

It was, pretty much, the only mistake Elias made in an 87-pitch performance. He struck out six and walked none.

Also, the Padres’ 1-0 lead didn’t survive the inning.

The Mariners cashed in on a sloppy error by first baseman Tommy Medica, who couldn’t handle a throw from third baseman Chase Headley on Cole Gillespie’s one-out grounder.

Montero followed by yanking a two-run homer to left for a 2-1 lead. It was Montero’s first big-league homer since May 8, 2013 at Pittsburgh. (He had eight in 59 games at Triple-A Tacoma this season prior to his June 12 recall.)

“He’s strong,” McClendon said. “No question about it. It was actually a hit-and-run, and the ball was up in the zone. He’s so strong he was able to muscle it out.”

The ball seemed to float toward left field, but it found sufficient carry.

“I just ran hard,” Montero said. “I didn’t know if it was gone or not. When I looked, it was over the wall.”

It was still 2-1 when James Jones opened the fifth inning with a single, his third hit, and stole second — even though Stults guessed correctly with a pick-off throw. Jones simply beat Medica’s high throw to second.

After struggling Stefen Romero failed to advance the runner, Jones went to third on a pitch in the dirt to Cano. The Padres then shortened their infield.

But it didn’t matter. Cano golfed a 3-1 slider into the right-field seats for a 4-1 lead.

“It was good contact,” Cano said, “but in that situation, I just wanted to put the ball in play. I didn’t want a ground ball. I just wanted to hit the ball out of the infield. With Jones on, anything (out of the infield), he can score.”

bob.dutton@thenewstribune.com blog.thenewstribune.com/mariners @TNT_Mariners

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