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Bell hits 446-foot HR, tops it with 460-footer

Pirates slugger extends hit streak to 14 in 4-RBI night
@adamdberry
May 15, 2019

PHOENIX -- Can anybody stop Josh Bell right now? Bell, the Pirates’ switch-hitting first baseman, slugged a pair of mammoth home runs, drove in four runs and extended his hitting streak to 14 games in the Bucs’ 6-2 win over the D-backs on Tuesday night at Chase Field. Bell set

PHOENIX -- Can anybody stop Josh Bell right now?

Bell, the Pirates’ switch-hitting first baseman, slugged a pair of mammoth home runs, drove in four runs and extended his hitting streak to 14 games in the Bucs’ 6-2 win over the D-backs on Tuesday night at Chase Field.

Bell set out in the offseason to become a more powerful, productive player at the plate -- the kind of cleanup man Pittsburgh needed heading into the season. He has done that and more, emerging as one of the Majors’ best hitters through the first quarter of the season.

“We’ve never seen him roll like this,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. “I don’t know if I’ve seen anybody roll like this in a Pittsburgh uniform for a while.”

Consider this: Bell hit 12 homers and drove in 62 runs in 148 games last season. The Pirates have played 39 games this year, and Bell has already matched his home run total from a year ago while averaging one RBI per game.

“This is, by far, the best I’ve felt, especially in the big leagues,” Bell said. “Hopefully, more to come.”

Bell has hit four home runs at least 450 feet this season, according to Statcast, two more than anyone else in the Majors. But he’s not just crushing prodigious homers, hitting the ball as hard and as far as anyone in the Majors – “mauling it,” as Hurdle put it. He’s doing so while batting .329 with a 1.093 OPS that ranks behind only the Dodgers’ Cody Bellinger and reigning National League MVP Christian Yelich of the Brewers.

“It’s incredible. Hitting’s not that easy,” starter Joe Musgrove said. “He’s not just going up there and getting lucky or getting cookies to hit. You see the difference he’s made this year in his commitment and dedication, his routine throughout the day. He’s prepared better than anybody in this clubhouse and anybody in the league right now.

“It’s really fun to watch, and I’m really glad he’s on our team.”

A couple looks into the Pirates’ dugout on Tuesday night showed how much fun they’re having when Bell’s at the plate. These players celebrate each other’s success, and they’ve had plenty of reason to celebrate Bell over the last six weeks. Even they seem to be in awe of the raw power he’s showing on seemingly a nightly basis.

“It’s awesome,” Bell said. “It feels like I’m living in a dream a little bit, just being able to help guys like Musgrove who worked his tail off, throwing up zeros for us, just getting runs on the board and helping us bring home the W.”

In the fifth inning, Bell blasted an 0-2 fastball from Luke Weaver into the camera-well cutout in the batter’s eye in center field. The two-run shot, which came off his bat at 110.4 mph and traveled a projected 446 feet, according to Statcast, gave Pittsburgh a 3-0 lead over Arizona. That gave the Pirates a 3-0 lead, but Bell wasn’t done.

Leading off the eighth inning against right-hander Zack Godley, Bell crushed the first pitch he saw a projected 460 feet to right-center field. Since Statcast began tracking batted balls, Bell is the third player to have multiple home runs in one game that were hit at least 110 mph and traveled at least 440 feet.

“They both felt good,” Bell said after his second career multi-homer game. “Obviously the first one was more important, so that felt great to hit it in that moment. The second one felt better off the bat. Both felt amazing.”

What has led to his overall success? It started with Bell’s work in the offseason, when he honed in on his approach and mechanics while working with hitting consultant Joe DeMarco in southern California. Bell also credited his pregame work with hitting coaches Rick Eckstein and Jacob Cruz, who have helped him time up opponents’ fastballs in a way that allows him to blast them to the middle of the field while still being able to turn on breaking balls and offspeed stuff.

“I’ve got a really good routine working with them,” Bell said. “Just trying to sync up fastballs and get on every starter’s fastball and understand how guys are going to attack me, sell out to an approach and just go from there.”

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