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Bell shatters a Bucs record with HR into river

Switch-hitter's 116.2-mph shot lands in Allegheny
@adamdberry
May 22, 2019

PITTSBURGH -- Josh Bell did it again. Facing Rockies starter Jon Gray in the second inning of the Pirates’ 9-3 loss on Wednesday night, Bell launched a towering home run directly into the Allegheny River. It was the second time this month that Pittsburgh’s switch-hitting slugger has crushed a home

PITTSBURGH -- Josh Bell did it again.

Facing Rockies starter Jon Gray in the second inning of the Pirates’ 9-3 loss on Wednesday night, Bell launched a towering home run directly into the Allegheny River. It was the second time this month that Pittsburgh’s switch-hitting slugger has crushed a home run out of PNC Park and into the river on the fly.

“It definitely felt good,” Bell said. “Just got a changeup up there. I was able to get my ‘A’ swing off on it, just barrel it up.”

The fact that Bell had done it before didn’t make what he accomplished on Wednesday any less impressive.

“If you start getting used to it, you’re missing the whole deal of what’s going on. You really are,” Bucs manager Clint Hurdle said. “Man, embrace it. Watch it. Think of the conversations you were having last year at the end of the year or the winter or whenever it was. All the questions. All the doubt. He’s got a long way to go, but this is where he’s at right now. I’m enjoying it, absolutely enjoying it.”

How could you not appreciate what Bell is doing this season? He has hit 15 home runs in 46 games, three more than he recorded in 148 games last year. Bell has already driven in 45 runs, 17 shy of his 2018 total and halfway to his ‘17 output.

Bell’s solo blast came off his bat at 116.2 mph, according to Statcast, making it Pittsburgh’s hardest-hit ball since Statcast began tracking exit velocity in 2015. It traveled a projected 454 feet before splashing down as the 51st home run to reach the water.

“Those numbers are just crazy,” Hurdle said when informed of the exit velocity. “Good for him.”

It was only the fifth homer to drop into the Allegheny River on the fly. Bell is the first player to hit two homers into the river since PNC Park opened in 2001, and it was only two weeks ago that he accomplished the feat for the first time.

On May 8, Bell launched a 472-foot homer into the Allegheny River off Rangers starter Shelby Miller, the fifth-longest home run in PNC Park history. He also owns the fourth-longest homer at PNC Park, a 474-foot shot that he ripped over the batter’s eye in center field on April 7. Bell has clubbed five homers that traveled at least 450 feet this season; nobody else in the Majors has more than three.

Bell is one of four players and one of three Pirates to reach the Allegheny River on the fly. Daryle Ward (July 6, 2002), Garrett Jones (June 2, 2013) and Pedro Alvarez (May 19, 2015) are the only other three to do so. Bell, Jones and Alvarez are tied for the PNC Park record with four home runs that have reached the river.

Bell credits new hitting coach Rick Eckstein for helping him improve his approach at the plate, especially as he must grow more selective with pitchers handling him more cautiously. Before every game, Eckstein and Bell review video of that day’s opposing starter and study how he might try to attack Bell. On Wednesday, Bell locked in on the part of the zone where Gray’s changeup hung just enough.

Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and read his blog.