OAKLAND, Calif. – They can’t all be shutouts for Mike Montgomery. The rookie left-hander couldn’t quite repeat what he’d done in his past two outings – tossing scoreless, complete-game gems.
He finally allowed a run – but only one. And thanks to a shutdown effort from the Seattle bullpen behind him and the minimal run support required, Montgomery picked up his third straight win in the Mariners’ 2-1 victory over the Oakland A’s.
Seattle finished the road trip with a 5-4 record with Montgomery winning twice and improved to 38-44 on the season. They return to Safeco Field for seven straight home games leading into the All-Star break.
“I thought he pitched well early on,” manager Lloyd McClendon said. “I think the one thing we tend to forget is that he’s a young kid that’s still relatively raw. He’s been going deep into ballgames and I thought he started to run out of gas and started to elevate his pitches.”
Montgomery’s string of 20 straight scoreless innings came to an end in the third inning when Sam Fuld hit a solo home run to right. If there had been a betting pool on ways the A’s would have scored, a Fuld homer would have had long odds. It was his first home run this season and his first in 200 at-bats.
“I left it over the middle and he took advantage of it,” Montgomery said. “It happens. (MLB) hitters are good and they are going to take advantage of your mistakes.”
But that’s all he would allow while pitching into the sixth inning with his team leading 2-1.
With two outs and runners on first and second in the sixth inning and his pitch count at 82, McClendon saw Montgomery (4-2) start to leave pitches up in the zone and struggle with his command of his secondary pitches.
“He started leaving his pitches up,” McClendon said. “That’s the first sign of fatigue.”
After two straight complete games, some fatigue isn’t unexpected.
“There was maybe a little bit,” Montgomery said. “I just thought my pitches weren’t quite as sharp, especially my off-speed stuff.”
McClendon went to right-hander Mark Lowe to clean up the small mess. Oakland countered with the left-handed-hitting Josh Reddick as a pinch-hitter. But Lowe struck out Reddick swinging to the end the threat and the inning.
“He’s the guy that I wanted in that situation,” McClendon said. “He has the ability to keep the ball down and work inside and out. He did a nice job.”
It seemed as if the Mariners would be stymied by another lesser-known pitcher. A day after being shut down by Kendall Graveman, right-hander Chris Bassitt, who was called up from Class AAA to make the start, was doing the same thing, holding Seattle scoreless through five innings and giving up just three hits.
But in the sixth, the Mariners finally put together a rally. With two outs, Robinson Cano took an 88-mph slider off the ankle. Nelson Cruz followed with a hard double into left field, putting runners on second and third. After working the count to 3-2 and laying off a very tough 2-2 curveball, Seth Smith punched a single up the middle on another breaking ball through the shifted-over defense to score both runners and give the Mariners a 2-1 lead.
The Mariners bullpen was solid. After working out of the sixth inning, Lowe pitched a scoreless seventh inning. Joe Beimel worked the eighth inning without allowing a base runner.
In the ninth inning, with a dangerous pair of left-handers – Ben Zobrist and Reddick – scheduled to hit, McClendon opted for Fernando Rodney over Carson Smith to get the save. Rodney has had success against Zobrist, Billy Butler and Reddick. Rodney retired the first two hitters with ease, but Reddick reached on an infield hit and Ike Davis drew a walk to put the winning run on first. But Mark Canha grounded out to third to end the game. It was Rodney’s 16th save of the season.
McClendon on leave
Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon will miss his team’s upcoming three-game series against the Detroit Tigers to attend a funeral for his sister.
McClendon was expected to fly back to Seattle with the team following its game in Oakland on Sunday afternoon, then travel to Indiana to be with his family.
Bench coach Trent Jewett will assume the managerial duties until McClendon rejoins the team.
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