Circumstances have called for manager Lloyd McClendon to do so some unconventional things, but few will question his motives if the Seattle Mariners keep winning.
Seattle seeks a season-high sixth straight victory while looking to deal the host Tampa Bay Rays an 11th consecutive defeat Friday night.
McClendon had Willie Bloomquist start at first base in place of Justin Smoak in Wednesday's 2-0 win over Atlanta, marking the first time Bloomquist started at first since 2010. He's also started at second, third, shortstop, left field and right field this season.
After Stefen Romero hit a pinch-hit, three-run homer in Tuesday's 7-5 victory, McClendon decided to bat Romero in the cleanup spot the following day despite him entering the contest hitting .204.
Romero responded by getting two hits and is 4 for 7 over his last three games.
''Somebody has got to hit there,'' McClendon said. ''I don't have (Barry) Bonds, so it's going to be Romero.''
Though its unclear what kind of lineup McClendon will trot out for this contest, one definite is that Smoak will be back at first base after pinch-hitting Wednesday. Smoak is 4 for 37 (.108) over his last 11, but McClendon said he's been battling a sore quad muscle.
"I think fatigue has something to do with that," McClendon told the team's official website of Smoak's slump. "This will give him a chance to freshen up, and hopefully that will quicken his bat up a little."
The Mariners (31-28), attempting to go four games above .500 for the first time since finishing 85-77 in 2009, will look to Chris Young (5-2, 3.27 ERA) to help extend the winning streak.
Young has been especially solid over his last two outings, giving up one run in 6 1-3 innings to beat the Los Angeles Angels 5-1 on May 26 before allowing two runs in six innings of Saturday's 3-2 victory over Detroit.
The right-hander made nine minor league starts last season after having surgery to correct a rare nerve problem that caused discomfort in the neck and shoulders.
"Physically, I feel good," Young said. "Whether that means (I'm) stronger or what, I'm just trying to get everything in sync and make good pitches."
Young is 2-2 with a 4.80 ERA in five road starts, and he'll face a Tampa Bay team that saw its slide continue with an 11-6 loss to Miami on Thursday.
The Rays (23-38) have the worst winning percentage in the majors and are mired in their longest winless stretch since dropping 11 in a row Sept. 3-13, 2009. The current skid matches Boston for the longest in the majors this season.
''This team's too good for that,'' manager Joe Maddon said. ''There's too much talent on this team to go through this particular moment. It's a good ballclub. These are good baseball players.''
Tampa Bay will look to end its slump as Erik Bedard (2-4, 4.08) takes the mound.
Bedard has lost his last three starts, especially struggling over the past two. He gave up eight runs in four innings of a 10-5 loss to Toronto on May 26 before giving up three runs and walking four while tossing 104 pitches in 4 2-3 innings of Sunday's 4-0 defeat to Boston.
The left-hander has pitched fewer than six innings in seven of his nine starts and will look to bounce back against one of his former teams. Bedard went 15-14 with a 3.31 ERA in 46 starts over two-plus seasons for Seattle before being traded to the Red Sox in July 2011.
He's 1-4 with a 4.23 ERA in seven starts against the Mariners, who have lost 14 of 18 at Tropicana Field.
- Sports & Recreation
- Seattle Mariners
- Tampa Bay Rays
- Justin Smoak
- Willie Bloomquist