When Joe Maddon released his Fourth of July lineup against the Cincinnati Reds, it was a bit surprising to see Addison Russell's name fifth in the batting order.
That marked the highest Russell has hit in the order in his big-league career (he also hit fifth in one game last season).
Russell spent the majority of 2015 hitting ninth (116 of his 137 starts) in the Cubs lineup — behind the pitcher — as Maddon allowed the young hitter to adjust to MLB pitching.
Since that holiday matchup with the Reds, Russell has become the Cubs' new No. 5 hitter against left-handed starting pitchers and he's found a lot of success in that spot.
The 22-year-old shortstop has posted a .364 average, 1.182 OPS and three homers in the five-hole. He has driven in 10 and scored seven runs in five games in that spot, including two RBI and a run in Friday's win over the Rangers.
It's a super small sample size, but Russell feels comfortable hitting fifth.
"I like hitting in that spot a lot," he said. "Seems like you get a little bit better pitches to hit to put the ball in play. I'm usually hitting with some runners on, so I really like that spot."
Russell said he feels like he gets more pitches to hit because instead of hitting seventh or eighth with the pitcher right behind him, now he has Jason Heyward or Javy Baez following him in the order. He also likes it because there's a better chance he gets an extra at-bat in a game rather than hitting lower in the order.
It's interesting that Russell is having this success in the five-hole given that his numbers against left-handed pitchers on the season are dismal (.184 AVG, .690 OPS), but obviously the move up in the order has helped normalize those numbers.
Russell has succeeded at driving in runs all year hitting after the heart of the order and is on pace for 95 RBI, which would be the highest mark for a shortstop since Troy Tulowitzki drove in 105 with the Colorado Rockies in 2011.
"I'm not afraid to hit with runners on," Russell said. "There's just a comfort level with runners on and being up in the lineup that's clicking right now."
Maddon's order will undoubtedly change when Dexter Fowler returns to the Cubs' lineup and pushes Ben Zobrist back to the cleanup spot full-time (instead of leading off against left-handers), but for right now, Russell looks like he's found a home in the five-hole.