Mariners vs. Astros 5.22.14 Lineup, Pre-game Notes: Franklin at SS

The longest homestand of the season for the Seattle Mariners is underway beginning with a 4-game set against the Houston Astros Thursday. The lineup news for the first game where the Mariners face RHP Jarred Cosart (3-3, 4.41 ERA) is Stefen Romero is in at DH and Nick Franklin gets his second start at shortstop this season (first since 4/20 in Miami). Those inclusions mean Brad Miller will get a day of rest.

It is an important homestand with eight games against divisional opponents including four against the surging second-place LAA Angels. The Detroit Tigers follow and the Mariners need to show well to keep pace with Oakland which is threatening to separate themselves from the pack in the AL West (Mariners trail OAK by 7.5 games).

One of the biggest keys for the Mariners’ success not just in this 11-game homestand, but for the rest of the season is a consistently good Justin Smoak. Smoak had a solid homestand against Kansas City and Tampa Bay, batted 4-for-11 with three walks in Minnesota and then went 0-for-8 with one walk in Texas.

While the production is up this year from Smoak (6 HRs, 27 RBI thru 45 games) which is a positive sign, he remains the same enigma in regards to his inconsistency.

“He still has a ways to go. He’s getting better,” said McClendon of his first baseman. “But by no means is it a finished product. You’re going to see some ups and downs.”

Smoak has played in every game this season so far for the M’s, missing just one start and with Corey Hart now on the disabled list for at least a month, it could be awhile before he gets another day of rest. Meanwhile 1b/DH/OF  Logan Morrison will head out on a full rehab assignment Friday with AAA Tacoma.

Mariners (22-23)

1. James Jones (L) cf

2. Michael Saunders (L) rf

3. Robinson Cano (L) 2b

4. Kyle Seager (L) 3b

5. Justin Smoak (s) 1b

6. Dustin Ackley (L) lf

7. Stefen Romero dh

8. Nick Franklin (s) ss

9. Mike Zunino c

LHP Roenis Elias

In other news:

– James Paxton threw a light side session (pretty much played catch) and as long as he comes away feeling fine Friday morning, he will also head to AAA Tacoma for a rehab start Sunday. McClendon wants to see 5-6 innings at 75 pitches.

– Taijuan Walker will pitch his second simulated game Friday. The target is three innings and 55 pitches similar to the outing Paxton did on Tuesday. McClendon said he is also getting close to a rehab assignment.

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