Pirates’ problem may be that hitting slumps can be contagious
Don’t try to convince Josh Bell participating in the Home Run Derby has contributed to the hitting slump he carried into the Pittsburgh Pirates’ four-game series with the St. Louis Cardinals on Monday night.
He was struggling at the plate before he sold out for home runs July 8 at the Derby.
It’s something he readily admits.
“If you look at the numbers before the break,” he said, “they weren’t pretty, either.”
Bell is hitting .138 since coming off the All-Star break, with no home runs and one RBI (although he continues to lead the majors with 85 RBIs).
But he is correct about the slump starting before the break. He hasn’t homered since July 5, and he was hitless in seven of 10 games from June 28-July 7.
“Not squaring balls up as much,” said Bell, who was hitting .289 before Monday’s game after peaking at .345 on May 29. “So, I am just trying to turn things around right now and continue to work and continue to sell out to a plan.
“I still feel like I am missing it a little bit on pitches, taking balls in zones where I maybe should look for (balls to hit). Just kind of one step behind.”
Bell has been shouldering a big part of the offensive load most of the season. He has 32 more RBIs than the next player on the list (Starling Marte).
The Pirates’ lineup Monday night against the Cardinals at PNC Park included all but catcher Elias Diaz hitting at least .276. But it’s a misleading stat.
The Pirates had scored just 25 runs in nine games (2-7) after totaling 56 in the previous seven.
“That’s not going to do you real good at this level,” manager Clint Hurdle said.
Hurdle said hitting slumps by a few players sometimes can infect others.
“We’ve had this conversation about contagions since I’ve been here. I think it’s all contagious,” he said. “Your goal is to make the guys’ (at-bats) who bat behind you easier than yours and hold onto to that and know you are enough. When either one or two or three guys fall off, you don’t try to pick up your slack, his slack and somebody else’s slack. You have to stay in your lanes.”
He also admitted that as the Pirates fall out of the National League Central and wild-card playoff races, some players might be pressing too hard.
Monday, the Pirates entered the final series of an important 26-game stretch with a 10-12 record. After advancing within 2 ½ games of first place at the break, they were 7 ½ behind the Chicago Cubs before Monday’s game.
“Part of it could be coming out (of the All-Star break), being close, and now we have a chance to move and we didn’t,” Hurdle said. “We’ve all run through times in our lives, whether it’s sports-related or something else, where we don’t get the immediate result we want that day. We try harder the next day, and the third day we try even harder than that. We could have some of that.
“Sometimes, it’s been very good pitching that we matched up against, but I still believe we got enough that when we just take care of our skills, we (are) in a better place offensively.”
Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jerry by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .