Piniella announces Cubs batting order with Byrd fifth, Soriano sixth

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Speaking at the annual Cubs convention over the weekend, manager Lou Piniella revealed that new center fielder Marlon Byrd has been penciled into the No. 5 spot in the batting order and Alfonso Soriano will remain in the No. 6 spot that he filled during the second half of last season.
Soriano spent his first two-and-a-half seasons with the Cubs batting almost exclusively leadoff, but was never a particularly good fit there. Not only is he a high-strikeout free-swinger with a sub par .328 career on-base percentage, batting atop the lineup limited his RBI chances and often wasted Soriano’s power. He’s a better fit in the sixth spot, but my guess is that he’ll eventually end up hitting fifth behind Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez while Byrd slides down in the order.
Signed to a three-year, $15 million deal last month, Byrd has hit fifth in 18 percent of his career starts and saw plenty of action there for the Rangers. However, in three years with Texas he hit a modest .281/.328/.414 away from the Rangers’ offense-boosting home ballpark and prior to 2009 his career-high was 10 homers. Signing the 32-year-old Byrd to a three-year deal with the expectation that he’ll be a good defensive center fielder and productive No. 5 hitter for the life of the contract is going to leave the Cubs disappointed.

Video: J.D. Martinez hits league-tying 23rd home run

Seattle Mariners v Boston Red Sox
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The Red Sox and Mariners left nothing on the table Friday night, going head-to-head in a series opener that eventually ended 14-10 in the Sox’ favor. Led by Steven Wright and Wade LeBlanc — neither of whom made it past the fifth inning — the teams combined for 34 hits and four home runs, including two moonshots from Seattle’s Nelson Cruz and a five-run rally that gave Boston the edge in the seventh.

In the sixth inning, however, the Red Sox were still scrambling to make up a four-run deficit. Left fielder J.D. Martinez cut it in half with one swing, pouncing on an 89.5-mph fastball from Seattle right-hander Nick Vincent and posting it to dead center field for a two-run shot.

The 427-foot blast was Martinez’s 23rd of the season, tying Mike Trout for the most home runs in the league this year. While he still has a ways to go before eclipsing the career-best 45-HR mark he set in 2017, he’s off to a strong start this season: Entering Friday’s game, the 30-year-old slugger was batting .315/.386/.623 with a 1.009 OPS and AL-leading 55 RBI in 308 PA. He finished Friday’s game 4-for-5 with five RBI, just one triple shy of hitting for the cycle.

Heading into the All-Star Break, both Martinez and Trout still have some competition for the home run title. Jose Ramirez is sitting at 22 homers, while Nelson Cruz and Khris Davis are tied at 20 apiece.