Josh Bell continues to fuel the fire that is his 2017 campaign.
In five innings of a scoreless, pitcher’s clinic, Bell took the sixth inning by storm blasting a wake-em-up three-run home run, which power-lifted Pittsburgh (17-23) to a 6-1 win over Washington (25-14) at PNC Park, Wednesday night.
The rookie first baseman now leads the Pirates with eight home runs on the season, hitting three in his last five games.
“It was just that two-seamer in that I got on the first two at-bats, and I made that adjustment and knew he was coming too it,” Bell explained of his game-winning at-bat. “I just got the bat head on it and stayed through it.”
Andrew McCutchen (2 for 4) sprinkled on the extra insurance with a two-run single in the seventh inning, getting the center fielders bat of the snide, and improving his season average to .214.
Overall the Pirates took advantage of Jacob Turner and a weakened Nationals bullpen, hanging seven hits with six walks, handing the Nats’ starter his second loss of the season, charging him for a season-high three earned runs on 5.1 innings pitched.
“We always want to get runs for whoever out there on the mound,” said Cutch of getting starter Gerrit Cole some much needed run support. “We were able to do it. We did it late, but we did it and that is all that matters. We got a couple of guys on, and Bell delivered the big swing. We didn’t stop there. We scored a couple more. It was a good outing, and good to finally get him some run support.”
Cole didn’t need much in the run support category, as the righty continued his smoking hot run of late, earning his second win, while keeping Washington in check, allowing just one earn run on three hits, two walks and three strikeouts in seven masterful innings of work.
“He followed his game plan extremely well,” said Clint Hurdle of his starter. “The game plan set up before the game was to work efficiently, first-pitch strikes and create weak contact. Excellent. He followed it from start-to-finish.”
Cole tossed a consistent, crisp 98 pitches, dipping his ERA below two in his last seven starts, allowing just 31 hits in that span. The ace has yet to give up more than three earned runs in six innings or more pitched since no decision against Atlanta back on April 9.
“That’s kind of the same game plan every time, just try to execute pitches,” said Cole, who is now 2-4, and sporting a 2.84 ERA on the season. “They are a really good hitting ball club, so they’re going to be aggressive. We just made good enough pitches, to where we were inducing weak contact. We got away with two, maybe three tonight which was nice. You always feel fortunate when that happens.”
Along with two innings of hitless help from the bullpen, Cole and friends held Washington’s 1-4 hitless, a combined 0 for 15, with a walk, including four empty at-bats for Bryce Harper.
“If you start staring at the batting averages, and the names on the back of the jersey, I think it can be a little overwhelming,” said Cole on the importance of keeping the entire Nationals lineup at-bey. “You just have to stick with the process and control what you can control.”
Cole talked about his chest-beating moment of the night, when Francisco Cervelli picked off Brian Goodwin to end the seventh inning, keeping the scoring in the frame to just one run for the visitors.
“You know, it just shows you that everybody is locked in, everybody is aware,” he said. “It’s a big tipping point of the game, obviously. It’s not the tying run or the go-ahead run, but this team can come back late in ballgames, especially with their firepower, so Cervi’ and (Jordy) Mercer setting that pickoff up, that was beautiful.”
Home Run Figures
While it wasn’t the power Harper used to all but tear a hole through the right field fence the night before, Bell still got a meaty barrel into a ball that traveled 398 feet with an exit velocity of 101.3 mph, Wednesday night.
With the Homer, Bell has now taken sole possession of first among NL rookies in long balls this year.
“I feel like right now I am simplifying things,” Bell said of his approach in the box. “Before I was trying to force the issue, and right now, I’m seeing a lot of pitches and getting better timing for them, attacking at the right time. It really doesn’t take much to get the ball out of the ballpark for me. I don’t have to swing as hard as I can, I just have to put a decent swing on it. If I can stay through the baseball, I’m in a good place.”
After the Moneyline
The Pirates came in -125 favorites with Cole on the mound. The O/U of 8.5 runs, a complete Vegas sabotage for trend bettors, sailed well under with seven total on the board.
The rubber match for this series will take place tomorrow afternoon, with first pitch set at 12:45. Tanner Roark (3-1, 3.88) will face Tyler Glasnow (1-3, 7.98).