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Bell boosts Bucs with 3rd multi-HR game in May

Reynolds, Polanco also go deep off Padres rookie Margevicius
@oapostrophesd
May 19, 2019

SAN DIEGO -- Forget the short start. The Pirates were all about the long ball on Saturday night at Petco Park. First baseman Josh Bell slugged two home runs in the first three innings and the Bucs went deep four times overall against Padres starter Nick Margevicius en route to

SAN DIEGO -- Forget the short start. The Pirates were all about the long ball on Saturday night at Petco Park.

First baseman Josh Bell slugged two home runs in the first three innings and the Bucs went deep four times overall against Padres starter Nick Margevicius en route to a 7-2 victory.

Defying his platoon numbers, the switch-hitting Bell posted his third multi-homer game in May despite batting right-handed against the rookie lefty. In fact, multi-homer games have been infrequent for the Pirates as a team. The four-homer outburst on Saturday was their first since July 22 last season at Cincinnati.

Box score

“If you’ve followed us all year, this is an outlier,” said manager Clint Hurdle, whose club has won only two games by five runs all season and none by a larger margin. “The offense showed up tonight and gave us a cushion with which to work, and some comfort.”

Bell provided four runs of that cushion. He led off the second inning by destroying a 2-0 slider, sending it a projected 430 feet, according to Statcast, to center field with a 109.7 mph exit velocity. Bell came up in the following inning and attacked a full-count slider, pulling it 379 feet to left field for a three-run shot.

Bell’s second jack, which gave the Pirates a 5-0 lead, was his 14th of the season. Bell, who also had multi-homer games on May 4 against the A's and on Tuesday at Arizona, has surpassed his 2017 total of 12. His career best is 26 in 2017, and he’s more than halfway there in mid-May.

“It means I’m in a good place,” Bell said. “Last year was last year. I’ve turned the page on that, and I’m going to continue with this chapter.”

Bell’s slash line against lefties coming into Saturday was .239/.308/.391. Against righties, it was .357/.425/.777. Ten of his first 12 homers were against right-handers. The way Bell handled Margevicius suggests those splits against lefties might creep upward as the season progresses.

“I worked a ton in the offseason trying to get it right,” Bell said of his right-handed swing. “I know there are a ton of left-handed pitchers in [the National League Central], and they’re going to try to turn me around. I’ll continue to work on both sides and keep things fine-tuned over there.”

Bell got a chance to hit from both sides on Saturday, and he lined a single to left from the left side in the seventh inning for a three-hit night. He has 43 RBIs and a .333 batting average.

“That right-handed swing is stronger than we’ve seen in the past,” Hurdle said. “Then, he hits a ball left-handed that short-hops the left fielder. That’s how quick it got on him. He’s doing some fantastic, fun things to watch.”

Rookie left fielder Bryan Reynolds followed Bell’s second-inning homer with his third career blast. It was the first time this season the Pirates had back-to-back homers. Gregory Polanco chased Margevicius with a leadoff shot in the fifth inning.

As far as openers go ...
The early offense allowed Hurdle to align his pitching while using an opener for the first time. Rookie right-hander Montana DuRapau pitched the first two innings without allowing a run, despite throwing his first pitch into the infield grass.

Lefty Steven Brault followed and got the win after he ate up 3 1/3 innings despite allowing two runs, four hits and four walks. Four more pitchers kept the Padres off the board over the final 3 2/3 innings, and the Pirates were able to avoid using closer Felipe Vazquez, who pitched the previous two nights.

“It was a really good day for us at the ballpark,” Hurdle said. “A lot of guys contributed.”

Hartlieb makes MLB debut
Right-hander Geoff Hartlieb, ranked as the Pirates’ No. 29 prospect, by MLB Pipeline, pitched a perfect ninth inning in his Major League debut. With a fastball that sat at 95 mph and touched 98, he struck out Ian Kinsler, induced a groundout by slugger Franmil Reyes and got superstar Manny Machado on a foul popup to first base to end the game.

“I was talking to the guys in the bullpen,” Hartlieb said, “and they were saying, ‘Don’t look up.’ Then, I made that mistake right when I first walked out. I looked up, and it’s three decks. There’s a lot of people there. It got in my head a little bit. ...

“I just tried to keep it simple, not think about who’s in the box, and trust that what got me here was going to work.”

Shaun O'Neill is a reporter/editor for MLB.com based in San Diego. Follow him on Twitter @oapostrophesd.