PHOENIX -- If the word unorthodox comes to mind while watching a D-backs game this August or September, don't be surprised. Maybe even expect it.
The D-backs (41-68) are 23 games back of their weekend opponent, the National League West-leading Padres, so while winning each day remains the goal, room exists for some level of experimentation.
"If you played this out and we were playing a championship season right now, I would manage these games according to my personnel," interim manager Kirk Gibson said prior to the series opener with San Diego on Friday. "In reality, a lot of the things that I do, is I'm trying to pressure our personnel into doing some things to find out whether they are comfortable with it or they can become comfortable with it. Once you realize that, you manage to your personnel, that's what all the good managers do."
That thought process explained, at least in part, this was Gibson's gamble in Thursday's fourth inning: The skipper called for a suicide squeeze with rookie starting pitcher Barry Enright at the plate and recently acquired Bobby Crosby standing on third base.
Long story made shorter: Enright whiffed on his sacrifice bunt attempt (on a 1-0 fastball) and Crosby, charging homeward, was caught stealing. Enright singled home Stephen Drew on the next pitch.
Gibson said there was still something to be gained, if not the desired result.
"Though we didn't execute it last night," Gibson said, building to a smile, "we're further than we were the other times that we [tried] it.
"We want to make sure that we have the different components. We want to be able hit and run. We want to be able to steal. We want to be able to put in the safety squeeze as well as the squeeze."
Johnson bucks odds by bashing lefties
PHOENIX -- Interim manager Kirk Gibson has said that baseball observers often make too much of a left-handed hitter's successes or failures against left-handed hurlers. After all, Gibson said, rarely is much said about right-handed batters' exploits facing right-handed pitchers.
But even Gibson can't help but gush about his second baseman. The left-handed Kelly Johnson is batting .309 (34-for-110) with seven of his 17 home runs against lefties this season.
This is nothing new. Johnson is actually a career .301 hitter against lefties. He's a .269 career hitter.
"The way he approaches [lefties] is very good, and he'd be foolish to tell [the media what it is]," Gibson said with a smile. "He's pretty smart about it. He's got a game plan, and he sticks [to] it."
Gibson pointed to Johnson's first-inning at-bat in Thursday's 8-4 win over the Nationals. Johnson swung and missed at a Ross Detwiler fastball that actually struck him. But on the next pitch -- a curveball -- Johnson stood in and mashed a line-drive single into center field.
"Some people think the game really good," Gibson said. "That was really solid."
Johnson entered Friday's game on a nine-game hitting streak, in which he was batting .432 (16-for-37). He hit second against right-hander Jon Garland on Friday. His left-on-left attack will be back on display Saturday against Clayton Richard.
D-backs shortstop Stephen Drew assumed Friday's leadoff spot in Chris Young's stead. Drew entered play with a 12-game hitting streak. He recorded multiple hits in 11 of those games. Young was out of the starting lineup. ... Third baseman Mark Reynolds, who was struck in the helmet by a 95 mph fastball on Tuesday and hasn't seen game action since being pulled on Wednesday, underwent further neurological tests on Friday and will do so again on Saturday. Interim manager Kirk Gibson didn't expect Reynolds, who was on the field playing catch and taking batting practice pregame, to be available to play on Friday. "I broke a little sweat today," Reynolds said of his BP session. "I was feeling good ... not dizzy at all." ... Gibson said he writes the game attendance on the back of his lineup card each night to remind himself of Arizona's die-hard fans. The D-backs averaged 16,566 patrons, including a franchise-low 15,670 on Wednesday, during its four-game set with the Nationals this week. "I look up there, and I say 'Bless your hearts,' " Gibson said, "because we haven't been playing well, and these are our loyal, loyal fans. At the same time, we have to build that back up." Gibson added that he has made a concerted effort to interact with fans before games and has encouraged his players to do the same. ... Said Gibson on the potential institution of instant replay: "It doesn't even matter what my opinion is. They make the rules. I learn them. I stay up on them. We deal with them. ... With all that I see that I have to get better at myself, personally, the last thing I need to worry about is what Bud Selig is doing with replay. That's the way I look at it." ... In two starts since resuming his rehab assignment at Triple-A -- three-inning outings on July 30 and, more recently, on Wednesday -- Kris Benson has allowed just two runs on four hits. Benson is building his pitch count to be a starter, though there doesn't appear to be an open slot in the D-backs' rotation.
Andrew Pentis is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.