Bell ends homer drought in win over Marlins

First baseman records first HR, RBIs since Aug. 11; Kramer, Luplow lead rally

September 7th, 2018

PITTSBURGH -- Ten days ago, amid Josh Bell's lengthy home run and RBI drought, Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said he still sees the switch-hitting first baseman as a run producer. Bell hasn't played that role this season the same way he did last year, when he hit 26 homers and drove in 90 runs, but as Hurdle reminded: "The book's not finished being written this year."

Maybe the last chapter will be Bell's best. He snapped out of his slump on Friday night at PNC Park by launching a two-run homer off Dan Straily into the Marlins bullpen in the second inning, his first home run and first RBIs since Aug. 11. That wasn't the only encouraging offensive performance the Pirates saw, either. recorded his first big league hit and RBI, and went deep in the seventh as Pittsburgh came back to beat Miami, 5-3.

The Pirates have won four straight to pull within a game of .500 for the first time since Aug. 21.

Polanco exits with injuries after awkward slide

"Tonight was a lot of fun," said starter Chris Archer, who put together his second straight quality start. "Just showing what we're capable of."

It was also a reminder of Bell's ability. Hurdle said he has spoken with Bell about how he can finish strong, building momentum for next season. He has hit nine homers, driven in 56 runs and seen his slugging percentage drop from .466 to .397 this year. Bell sat out Tuesday and Wednesday before the Bucs' off-day on Thursday after hitting .172 with a .548 OPS in 19 games between home runs.

"Just got the opportunity to watch some games, get some work in in the cages, kind of unwind and reflect on some of the bad that's been happening," Bell said. "Just go back to the basics and try to square the ball up, use all fields."

Bell hit Straily's full-count fastball with authority, hammering the ball 403 feet to left-center field -- rare territory for a left-handed hitter, as Hurdle noted -- with an exit velocity of 104 mph, according to Statcast™. It was the kind of power he often showed last year, the kind of middle-of-the-order thump the Pirates could use next season and beyond.

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"Hindsight's 20/20. It was one of those swings where I wish I had started doing that months ago," Bell said. "But the hard work paid off."

That put the Pirates ahead by two, but Archer gave up the lead in the sixth. J.T. Realmuto doubled, walked, and smashed a 2-0 slider out to left field for a three-run homer. Walking Anderson bothered Archer more than anything, but the deficit would not last long.

When Archer walked into the dugout, he found Kramer, who's been in the big leagues for all of four days, and delivered a message: "Hey man, you're going to get the knock that is going to tie the game."

Sure enough, Kramer stepped to the plate in the seventh and knocked 's 100.6-mph fastball up the middle for a game-tying single.

"Obviously with a guy throwing 101, you're not going to be early," Kramer said. "Luckily I was able to put the bat on the ball, hit something hard up the middle, and luckily it got through."

Up came Luplow, who was in the game only as a replacement for the injured -- who exited during the sixth inning with left knee and left shoulder discomfort after an awkward slide.

Luplow spent most of this season with Indianapolis after rushing through the Minors to make his big league debut a year ago, and he has struggled to translate his Triple-A success to the Majors. But he blasted a 1-2, 100.3-mph fastball from Guerrero out to right-center field to give the Pirates a two-run lead.

"Big swing. Hopefully that'll help his confidence," Hurdle said. "Not that he needs it, but it was a big swing that picked the team up, for sure."

MOMENT THAT MATTERED

Proud family: A dozen members of Kramer's family were going to be in Pittsburgh on Friday whether he played or not, but their cross-country, red-eye flights were rewarded with the rookie's first career start. Before tying the game later, Kramer gave them reason to cheer with his first hit -- a line-drive single to right in the third inning.

"That's what it's all about for me. To have my 4-year-old nephew with my name on the back of his jersey, that's priceless," Kramer said. "Obviously they've made a lot of sacrifices for me. For them to be able to be here and witness this, I do it more for them than I do for anyone else."

YOU GOTTA SEE THIS

Archer put together another solid start for the Pirates and contributed with his bat as well. With two outs in the fifth, the longtime American League pitcher lined a double to right-center -- his third career hit and his first for extra bases. Archer enthusiastically performed the Pirates' "left-turn" celebration on second, and the dugout roared in approval.

"The dugout was pretty hype. It felt good. Baseball's fun," Archer said. "It's trying. It can be really rude sometimes and mean. But at the end of the day, it's fun."

HE SAID IT

"It was huge. It's not like [Guerrero] was throwing slow. The dude was throwing gas. Really big night for [Kramer and Luplow] to come through in the clutch. … I knew he was going to be the dude for whatever reason. The way he carries himself. I just knew. For whatever reason, I knew he was going to be the guy." -- Archer, on his prediction that Kramer would tie the game

"I came in and I celebrated with him, too, because it was kind of funny that it all worked out that way. But that's baseball. To be able to play defense behind him is special. The energy that he brings every day, I've seen it on TV. Now I get to witness it in person. It's easy to play defense behind him. I was excited that I was able to come through with his plans for me. It was cool." -- Kramer, on Archer

UP NEXT

Right-hander , who missed his last start while attending to a personal matter, will take the mound for the Pirates at 1:05 p.m. ET on Saturday at PNC Park. Nova held the Marlins to three runs on six hits and struck out nine over 6 2/3 innings at Marlins Park in April. Lefty is set to start for Miami.