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Bell’s 3 homers lead Bucs' historic barrage  

Pittsburgh tallies 23 hits; Frazier ties Pirates record with four-double night
@adamdberry
July 2, 2019

PITTSBURGH -- Josh Bell started the Home Run Derby a week early and kick-started an offensive explosion for the Pirates -- one for the record books, in fact -- on Monday night at PNC Park. Bell slugged a pair of home runs out to right field in the first two

PITTSBURGH -- Josh Bell started the Home Run Derby a week early and kick-started an offensive explosion for the Pirates -- one for the record books, in fact -- on Monday night at PNC Park.

Bell slugged a pair of home runs out to right field in the first two innings of the Pirates’ 18-5 win over the Cubs, then took Craig Kimbrel deep to center in the eighth inning. Bell has hit 25 homers and driven in 77 runs this season, emerging as the focal point -- but not the only bright spot, as Monday proved -- in a resurgent Pittsburgh lineup.

“He’s my vote for July Player of the Month. So far, so good,” starter Trevor Williams said. “It’s been impressive to see what he’s been doing -- and our entire offense, really.”

Box score

Indeed, it wasn’t just The Josh Bell Show on Monday. Adam Frazier returned to the leadoff spot and tied a Major League record with four doubles as part of his five-hit performance. The only other Pirates player to ever record a four-double game: Paul Waner in 1932.

“It’s pretty cool to be in that category, especially with a Hall of Famer like Waner,” Frazier said. “I just kind of go with the flow, but the other guys are jacking me up about, ‘That’s MLB history.’ That’s pretty cool.”

It had been more than a year since any Pittsburgh player put together a five-hit game -- Starling Marte in Miami on April 15, 2018 -- but Frazier wasn’t even the only Pirate to accomplish the feat on Monday. Colin Moran also racked up five hits.

“There’s just a lot to celebrate tonight from an offensive standpoint, up and down the lineup,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. “It’s a pretty special night offensively.”

And it’s hard to ignore the history that Bell created. It was the 20th three-homer game in franchise history, and the first ever by a switch-hitter. Bell also became the first Pirate to go deep three times in one game as a left-handed hitter since Willie Stargell in 1971. He recorded seven RBIs, the most by any Bucs hitter since Andrew McCutchen had eight on Sept. 26, 2017.

Bell is the fifth Pirates player to have at least three home runs and seven RBIs in the same game. The last to do it? That would be Stargell, who had a three-homer, seven-RBI game on May 22, 1968.

“Hopefully that turns the corner for me a little bit and I can get back on track,” Bell said.

Believe it or not, the All-Star slugger was looking to bounce back. He was coming off a relatively quiet June following his historic, award-winning month of May. Bell hit just .208 with a .764 OPS, four home runs and 24 strikeouts in 25 games last month, as pitchers did everything they could to avoid giving him hittable pitches.

But a new month began on Monday, and Bell started it in style. The switch-hitting slugger has already more than doubled his home run output from last season (12), and he’s well past his 2018 RBI total (62) as well, with the All-Star break a week away. He was a few feet short of another home run and two more RBIs in the fifth inning, but Kyle Schwarber settled under Bell’s hard-hit, 368-foot flyout to left field.

“I felt he’d punch back. Tonight, we hope, was the start of it,” Hurdle said. “He’s had to learn some of the challenges that come with being extremely hot and how things are going to change in the pitching landscape for him from time to time. I think he’s starting to grasp that better as well, but it’s all part of the experience, all part of the development.”

Bell ripped a 109.2-mph line drive to right off Cubs starter Adbert Alzolay in the first inning, a three-run shot that capped Pittsburgh’s four-run opening frame. He went deep again with two outs in the second, jumping on a first-pitch curveball and sending it 367 feet out to right. Two innings in, Bell had recorded his fourth multi-homer game of the season.

He wasn’t done. Bell put an exclamation point on Pittsburgh’s amazing offensive outburst with a 109.3-mph shot to center field off Kimbrel in the eighth, one inning after the Cubs sent infielder Daniel Descalso to the mound.

“JB’s at-bats are obviously always special. That last one was like a golf shot, just unbelievable the way he can hit the ball that hard,” Moran said. “A normal person hits that as a double, and it lands in the front seat for him. It’s special.”

Bell’s early blasts made it clear the night was going to be a slugfest -- at least on one side -- and a return to form for the Pirates' lineup. During their weekend series loss in Milwaukee, the Bucs totaled five runs and 22 hits. On Monday, they pounded the Cubs for a season-high 18 runs and 23 hits.

Now, there’s no doubt that those three games against the Brewers were an exception, not the rule, for a Pittsburgh club that is averaging 5.4 runs per game since May 1.

And it was truly a team effort. Each of the 11 players who stepped to the plate wearing a Pirates uniform -- even Williams (RBI single) and pinch-hitting pitcher Steven Brault -- recorded at least one hit on the night.

“I feel like we did a good job of showing what we can do this past month. Tonight, it all came together one through nine,” Bell said. “Trevor’s out there getting hits and Brault as well. Just tough at-bats, finding the barrel, hitting the ball where they’re not and making the outfielders turn their backs.”

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