Bell's blast helps Pirates to series win vs. Nationals
After the Pirates were beaten by the Washington Nationals on Tuesday night, manager Clint Hurdle pooh-poohed the notion of making Josh Bell the cleanup hitter.
"With a young hitter like this right now, with the things he's fighting every day, I think he's good right where he's at," Hurdle said. "I think he's carrying his own load."
When Hurdle posted his lineup Thursday morning, Bell was listed in the fourth spot.
What changed in 33 hours?
"One of the greatest freedoms we have in this United States of America is the freedom to change our mind," Hurdle said with a smile. "(Gregory) Polanco wasn't on the DL (on Tuesday). (David) Freese is not in the lineup (on Thursday). There you go. I spoke with Josh yesterday before the game about it. We'll see where it goes."
It went to a very good place. Bell launched a two-run homer that sparked the Pirates to a 10-4 rout of the Nationals.
"It's the same mentality, just a different spot in the lineup," Bell said. "No new mindset. I've hit three and four in the minor leagues, and I'm excited to do the same in the (majors)."
Going into the game, Bell led National League rookies in home runs, on-base percentage and slugging. He ranked second in batting average and third in RBI.
Bell's 402-foot shot off right-hander Tanner Roark gave the Pirates a 2-0 lead in the first inning. In the third, he supplemented his power with patience to set up another two-run inning.
With two runners on and nobody out, Bell fell behind 0-2. Instead of panicking, he watched Roark spray pitches outside the zone and drew a walk.
"That was impressive," John Jaso said. "That was the at-bat of the inning, I think."
Jaso then worked an eight-pitch walk to force in a run. When Andrew McCutchen scored on Jordy Mercer's fielder's choice grounder, the Pirates were up, 4-1.
Bell's home run was his fourth since Friday and helped boost his batting average to .248 and his slugging percentage to .520. He has a .338 on-base percentage.
The pitch Bell took deep was a curveball down and in, a location that's given him trouble in the past.
"I was more impressed by the pitches he laid off of," Hurdle said. "He's seeing the ball good, there's no early bite. There's a calmness, and he's keeping his posture in the box."
Which was more satisfying to Bell, the homer or the walk?
"That's a tough call," Bell said, laughing. "I was sitting on heaters in and had to work back to get the walk. But, I'll take the homer, for sure."
Pirates righty Tyler Glasnow was tagged for Daniel Murphy's solo homer in the second inning. In the fourth, Glasnow's throwing error helped the Nationals tie it at 4.
After Adam Lind's RBI double, the Nationals had runners on second and third with two outs. Roark hit a comebacker that should have ended the inning, but Glasnow threw wildly to first base and two runs scored.
"I saw I had some time, so I took something off it and it went (wild)," said Glasnow (2-3), who gave up two earned runs on just three hits in five innings. "I was really mad at the time, but it's easier to (deal with) now."
Jaso broke the tie with a solo homer in the fifth.
The Pirates pulled away with three runs in the sixth. Adam Frazier ripped a two-run double to center and scored on Josh Harrison's sacrifice fly.
The Nationals had runners on first and third with two outs in the seventh. Felipe Rivero struck out Bryce Harper with three 100 mph fastballs.
"You pay to watch that matchup on both sides," Hurdle said. "There's no give by either the hitter or the pitcher. That's quality stuff."
Rob Biertempfel is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.