Bell robs Brinson homer; Nats fall in extras

September 21st, 2021

MIAMI -- The objective of shifting to left field while keeping at first base was to plug both bats into the Nationals' starting lineup. In the series opener on Monday night against the Marlins, that game plan also provided defensive prowess.

During the second inning of the Nats’ 8-7 10-inning loss, Lewis Brinson hit a Statcast-projected 386-foot fly ball to deep left off starter Erick Fedde. The ball looked like it was going to soar over the wall, until the 6-foot-4 Bell leapt up and nabbed the would-be homer. Bell smiled and pointed to Fedde on the mound, while Brinson threw his head back after watching the catch as he ran the bases.

“It was really nice to see a very large human up against that wall,” Fedde said. “It was definitely relieving. Any time someone can save a run for you like that, it’s awesome, and especially somebody who’s maybe not that familiar with left field.” 

The snag was particularly noteworthy considering Bell’s navigation of loanDepot park, as it can take some time getting used to the lighting inside the retractable-roof stadium. Bell did pregame work with third-base coach Bobby Henley to get acclimated with the ambience.

“I feel like it’s something I practiced in high school,” Bell said of robbing a home run. “I was happy to get that first one out of the way. It was definitely cool in the moment.”

Monday marked Bell’s eighth appearance (fifth start) of the season in the outfield in the dynamic with Zimmerman. Manager Dave Martinez first moved Bell to right field on Aug. 8 against the Braves. Since then, his outfield appearances have been in left. The last time he played left and Zimmerman played first was in Tuesday's, an 8-2 win over the Marlins.

“He got behind the ball and threw it really well,” Martinez said. “He played well out there.”

Bell was at the center of key moments in the game from start to finish. Tied at 7 with the bases loaded in the 10th, he was called out on batter interference during a double play to end the inning. Bell was hit by a throw from catcher Nick Fortes to first baseman Lewin Díaz, but he was ruled the third out because he ran inside the first-base line.

Martinez was ejected following the call.

“It’s a judgment,” Martinez said. “They say it’s a judgment. He ran inside, but when he touched the base, the ball hit him in the back. He was already on the base. It’s a judgment at that point. I get it. The ball hits him inside the line, and he’s still running? Yeah, great. ... It’s a brutal, brutal freaking play. It really is.”

Crew chief Bill Miller said in a pool report the Nationals exceeded their window to challenge the call, 20 seconds after the conclusion of the play. The Nats also wanted a review to see if Fortes touched home plate on the double play.

“It has to do with the first baseman's ability to catch the ball,” Miller said. “In that situation, Josh Bell is running in fair territory and the ball hit him in fair territory, and the first baseman was not able to stretch and catch the ball."

Bell said the momentum from making contact in the at-bat carried him inside the basepath.

“It was tough feeling first [base] and then having a split second and then feeling the ball hit me and me still getting called out,” Bell said. “But I guess it does make sense. If he catches that ball, I’m still safe at first, but nothing happens afterwards.”

A night that started with a memorable grab also concluded with a memorable ending to an extra-inning showdown between National League East opponents.

“I feel like we’ve just got to be better about closing out games,” Bell said. “I feel like it starts with me. I had an awesome opportunity to drive in runs there in the last inning and I didn’t pull through for the team. … We’ve got another baseball game tomorrow. Hopefully we can get the win.”