Mike Montgomery, Taijuan Walker Lead Mariners To Sweep


Ever since his arrival in the major leagues a month ago, Seattle Mariners starter Mike Montgomery has been a revelation. The 6’5″ lefty had struggled for years in the minors and only arrived in Seattle in exchange for Erasmo Ramirez, who was all but a given to be released. That should say it all about Montgomery’s value prior to this season.

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His hot start appeared to reach a boiling point last week, when Montgomery pitched a five-hit shutout against the Kansas City Royals. That game featured ten strikeouts and no walks, and was dominant enough of an effort that it led us to say that Montgomery is the real deal. Even if it was a talent-validating start, there was nowhere to go but down from there, right? As it turns out, no.

Last night against the San Diego Padres, Montgomery fired his second consecutive complete game shutout. He struck out seven, walked four, and allowed only one hit – a Yangervis Solarte double in the seventh inning. Four walks is less impressive than no walks, but one hit and a lengthy no-hit bid is more impressive than five hits. Last start was maybe a hair better than this one, but the difference is negligible. For the second straight turn, Montgomery was both durable and untouchable.

We’re now looking at a guy who’s made six big league starts and only once allowed more than two runs to score. His career low for innings pitched is six, and he’s got back-to-back complete game shutouts. It’s incredible, this run he’s on. It’d be impressive even if it was Felix Hernandez‘s handiwork, except that Mike Montgomery is definitely not Felix Hernandez. One month ago he was nobody.

One month ago Taijuan Walker was a particularly frustrating somebody, though there were signs he was starting to turn things around. He pitched his best game of the year and convinced everyone to let him keep trying, then just kept getting better and better until it became clear he had turned a corner. Like Montgomery, he has yet to slow it down.

The thing with Walker right now is that he’s just not walking anybody. Today against James Shields and the Padres it was more of the same: six innings, one hit, seven strikeouts, no walks. He didn’t finish what he started, as Montgomery did a day earlier, but he allowed the same number of hits, which is to say he allowed one hit. Just another terrific start.

The Mariners swept the Padres, winning both games without allowing a run. And how – riding on the arms of two young pitchers who’ve spent the last month blowing our minds. Hisashi Iwakuma is almost ready to come off the disabled list, which should have forced one of Walker or Montgomery out of the rotation. But now it’s clear that the choice for who to lose is going to come down to J.A. Happ or Roenis Elias. The M’s have two young studs tearing it up now, which was unforseeable a month ago.

Call me hopelessly optimistic and you’re right. But listen! Robinson Cano is powering up. The steady offensive players are holding steady. The bullpen’s coming together, the defense is doing better, Felix Hernandez is the best, and Mike Montgomery and Taijuan Walker just might be developing into stars. Not a bad bunch of signs.

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