Slumping Julio Rodriguez, Mariners open series at Nats

Fri May 24 2:10am ET
Field Level Media

The Seattle Mariners went with a different look Thursday at Yankee Stadium.

For the first time this season, manager Scott Servais didn't pencil Julio Rodriguez into the one of the top two spots in the Mariners' lineup. Instead, the struggling Rodriguez batted sixth.

The move didn't pay immediate dividends, as Rodriguez went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts in Seattle's 5-0 loss.

Rodriguez and the Mariners will hope for better results when they open a three-game interleague series Friday at Washington.

"Somebody threw the lineup construction question at me (Wednesday) and I said, ‘When you're putting lineups together, you want to get your guys that are going best near the top of the lineup,'" Servais said. "Julio is usually one of our guys that is going really well. It maybe takes a little pressure off. He's still a key, key player for us. It may be a few days. We'll just wait and see how it goes."

Servais informed Rodriguez of the decision after a 7-3 loss Wednesday at New York in which the two-time Silver Slugger Award winner went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts.

"He just said (Thursday) I'm going to put you lower in the lineup and I'm going to switch it around a little bit," Rodriguez said.

In 51 games this season, Rodriguez is batting .257 with two home runs and 14 RBIs. He has struck out 62 times in 214 plate appearances.

Rodriguez seemed to understand and accept the decision.

"I feel like every time that you hit like a little bit lower in the lineup you are able to see all the guys, who the (pitcher) is working and stuff like that," Rodriguez said.

Servais said Rodriguez's biggest issue is with his timing.

"You're way better off if you're early to get into the hitting position than if you're late," Servais said. "What you're seeing is a lot of foul balls to the opposite field, you're seeing a lot of balls just chopped right into the ground. He's hitting them hard. But it's hard to make a big impact in the game when you're hitting it on the ground all the time. Being on time, getting the bat out front and getting the ball in the air, we'd love to see more of it. He knows that. He knows what the issue is. He just hasn't been able to fix it yet."

It's not for a lack of trying, as Rodriguez is often one of the first to the ballpark.

"I feel good," he said. "I feel healthy. And if the results are not there, I'm not going to get scared. I'm going to keep working at it and keep trying to get better and keep helping this team win."

Despite the lack of production from their All-Star center fielder, the Mariners are in first place in the American League West.

The Nationals, who had Thursday off, have lost seven of their past eight games to drop below .500 and into third place in the National League East.

Worse yet, they've been shut out in three of those games, with the lone victory a 12-3 decision Monday against visiting Minnesota.

"It's baseball," Nationals outfielder Jacob Young said. "Some days you're squaring balls up and some days you're not. Sometimes you run into a buzzsaw with a guy throwing a good game. It happens."

Mariners right-hander George Kirby (4-4, 3.99 ERA) is scheduled to go up against Nationals lefty Mackenzie Gore (2-4, 3.30) in the series opener. Kirby is 0-0 with a 1.29 ERA in one previous start against Washington; Gore will be facing the M's for the first time.