Seattle Mariners 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 Mariners to a 7-0 victory at Safeco Field.
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.
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.
Montgomery escaped that jam in the first inning, 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 stretch of retiring 16 straight hitters before a two-out error by shortstop Brad Miller halted the run in the seventh inning.
Montgomery gave up j 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 while he struggled for years in the minors.
The Mariners acquired Montgomery, 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 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?
Montgomery worked himself into a bases-loaded jam with no outs in the first inning. Alcides Escobar and Mike Moustakas opened the game with singles before Montgomery hit Lorenzo Cain with a pitch.
But he pitched out of it by striking out Eric Hosmer and getting Kendrys Morales to ground into a double play.
The Royals came right back in the second inning. Alex Gordon led off and reached on a hard shot to first that was scored an error on Logan Morrison, and Salvy Perez followed with a single to left.
Montgomery responded by striking out Alex Rios, Omar Infante and Alcides Escobar — a rarity for the high-contact Royals: only their ninth three-strikeout inning.
The Mariners also threw away a big chance in their second.
Kyle Seager led off with a single and went to third when Ackley’s one-out drive hopped the right-center wall for a double. But Miller fouled out to third, and Zunino struck out.
The Mariners broke through after Seager’s one-out walk in the fourth. He moved to third on Smith’s single. Ackley’s soft pop to left ticked off the glove of a diving Gordon for a single, but Seager had to hold third.
This time, Miller and Zunino delivered.
Miller worked back from an 0-2 hole for a run-scoring walk, and Zunino flicked an RBI single 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, and it was 6-0. The ball hit the top of the wall in right-center field and kicked over.