Mike Montgomery picked a perfect night to show up the competition.
Pitching in front of his parents and grandparents on his 22nd birthday, the Royals prospect limited the Albuquerque Isotopes to two hits over 6 2/3 innings Friday as the Triple-A Omaha Storm Chasers cruised to a 6-0 victory.
Coming off an outing in which he surrendered nine runs on 10 hits over three innings, MLB.com's No. 9 prospect struck out seven while walking three.
"I was real happy because I had been struggling a bit of late," Montgomery said. "It's nice to go out there and pitch a good game, and the team overall played a good game. We had a big home run in [the third inning]. We got a lead and after that, I was trying to protect it -- get ahead early and throw strikes."
Selected with the 36th overall pick in the 2008 Draft, Montgomery posted a 2.61 ERA across three levels last season. He has experienced some growing pains transitioning to Triple-A, compiling a 5.38 ERA through 16 starts.
Walks have been part of the problem for the left-hander, who's issued 49 over 85 1/3 innings. Though he walked three on Friday -- the 11th time this season he's allowed at least three free passes -- he said he was able to regroup.
"It's one of those things where you don't want to walk guys, but it's going to happen," Montgomery said. "I felt I did a pretty good job today -- when I walked someone, I got right back at it. I got ground balls, double plays. I understand walks are part of game, I've just got to get in an attacking mind-set. And I felt after I walked guys I was able to get back, compose myself and make the pitch I need to make."
Montgomery set the tone early, retiring nine of the first 10 hitters he faced. He stayed strong throughout, limiting the Isotopes to no more than one baserunner in any inning.
"My fastball early on was really what I was getting most of the outs with," Montgomery said. "After that, I went to my off-speed stuff and was able to throw it for strikes, keeping hitters off-balance. I tried to get early outs -- get ahead in the count and put them away early. They hit some balls hard right at guys, which is always big."
While he's had faced some difficulties in the Pacific Coast League, Montgomery called his season a learning experience.
"I just realize how much work you have to do and how much you have to perfect your game and pitching," he said. "You can't just go out there and rely on stuff, you've got to learn how to pitch and be able to command the fastball. Work in and out of of the zone, keep hitters off-balance.
"These hitters are good hitters and, obviously, the big leagues are a big jump from here. I feel like I'm learning how to pitch, facing these guys and struggling a bit early."
Montgomery said his focus is simple -- keep the momentum going from his first win in nearly two months.
"Really just to build off what I did today," he said. "One of things I've been focusing on is not looking into the future too much. I'm focusing on getting better each day. It's sometimes tough to do, but you've gotta keep yourself grounded on what you've gotta do each day. That's what will lead to success long-term."