Bell earns 500th career RBI on 'incredible' blast

June 22nd, 2023

CLEVELAND -- Guardians fans haven’t been used to seeing their favorite players hit balls at the corner of Carnegie and Ontario the last couple of years like did on Thursday afternoon.

In Cleveland’s 6-1 victory over the A’s at Progressive Field, which marked the team’s first series sweep of the season, Bell got his team on the scoreboard with a monstrous solo homer that flew well over the heads of those standing in the left field concourse. It also marked his 500th career RBI.

The blast
Bell stepped into the box with no one on and one out in the bottom of the fifth. A’s starter JP Sears fired a first-pitch sweeper that clocked in at 80.8 mph on the inside corner of the plate. Bell took advantage of the location, swinging his hips open from the right side of the plate, and unleashed a moon shot down the left-field line. There was no doubt the ball was clearing the fence. The only question was when it would land.

"The home run was just a bad pitch to a good hitter,” Sears said. “That’s a spot where he does a lot of damage. It is what it is. I would take it back if I could."

Those who were leaning against the railing in the concourse by the left-field foul pole could only stare up at the sky, watching the ball fly well over their heads. It wasn’t until the Miller Lite sign that reads, “Proudly Brewed in Ohio,” above the entryway to the park got in the way of the flight path that the ball was knocked down. It made contact with the letter “H” in “Ohio,” before the scoreboard flashed Statcast’s projected distance of 430 feet.

Since 2015, there have been 52 long balls by Cleveland hitters that have traveled farther at home. But in the past two seasons, there have only been two.

The reaction
As the ball left Bell’s bat, the Guardians’ dugout started willing the ball to stay fair. The wind was blowing from center field to left field, and the entire roster was nervous the game-tying shot would be blown foul. Players pointed over the railing, and some jumped out onto the warning track to get a better view. But as it neared the wall, it was clear it was well into fair territory.

“I stopped following it, to be honest with you,” Guardians center fielder said. “I knew it was going out off the bat, and [I was just] hoping it stayed fair. … I mean I saw it on the replay … hit the walkway. So that was pretty cool. Pretty good blast."

"I think we were all leaning over the edge trying to make sure it stayed fair,” Guardians starter said. “I’m looking now at the screen, and it hit off the Ohio sign. That’s pretty incredible. I mean he’s got a ton of power. It’s good to see him get into one like that.”

The meaning
The Guardians need Bell. There’s no simpler way to put it. He was the team’s top free-agent signing over the winter, and his bat can take Cleveland’s offense to the next level.

The expectation was to have Bell provide some lineup protection for José Ramírez coming into the season, but because he got off to a slow start, the Guardians moved him out of the cleanup spot to allow , who’s been scorching hot since June began, to bring that security. But if both Naylor and Bell can be a daily threat, the Guardians may be able to play in fewer one-run contests and stay in the win column more consistently.

Each time Bell has appeared to be trending in the right direction, he’s fallen in a rut. But some of his numbers indicate that bad luck may be some of the story. He entered the day with a .233 average and .371 slugging percentage. His expected average was .260 and his expected slugging was .411. His sweet spot percentage is at its highest since 2019. He’s logged a hit in six of his last nine games and a homer in three of them. 

Bell isn’t quite where he’d like to be just yet. But it’s not the time to give up on him.