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Bucs' bats come alive with 4 HRs, 15 hits

@adamdberry
May 23, 2019

PITTSBURGH -- After building up an eight-run lead, it looked like the Pirates were set to cruise to a nice, easy win. These Bucs don’t really do nice and easy, but Thursday is about as close as they’ll get. After seeing their lead cut to two runs in the sixth

PITTSBURGH -- After building up an eight-run lead, it looked like the Pirates were set to cruise to a nice, easy win. These Bucs don’t really do nice and easy, but Thursday is about as close as they’ll get.

After seeing their lead cut to two runs in the sixth inning, the Pirates stormed back to score six more on three homers in the seventh and avoided a three-game series sweep by beating the Rockies, 14-6, at PNC Park. In doing so, they once again showed their resiliency. The Bucs have been dealt their share of lopsided losses this season, including Wednesday’s 9-3 defeat, but they are three games above .500 heading into a weekend series against the Dodgers.

Box score

“I think that’s what they’ve really grasped: We need to play better. The ability to bounce back just shows, for me, that that’s what they’re doing,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “They’re focusing on what’s next. There’s no rear-view mirrors in there, because we’re not planning on going backwards. We’re focused forward.”

The Pirates are 5-3 this season immediately after a “wipeout” loss, as Hurdle has called them -- games that they dropped by at least six runs. What’s their secret to bouncing back?

“I guess just the understanding that a loss is a loss,” Josh Bell said. “It doesn’t matter if you lose by 20 or you lose by one. It just goes down as one loss.”

Unsurprisingly, Bell played a huge part as the Pirates put together their highest-scoring game and largest margin of victory this season. The switch-hitting slugger finished 3-for-4 with his 16th homer of the season, a double, a walk and two RBIs, bringing his total to 47 in 47 games.

Bell is earning those “M-V-P” chants he received from the Thursday afternoon crowd of 15,490. Nearly two months into the season, he’s hitting .339/.408/.718 and proving to be one of the most imposing hitters in baseball. When asked where his first baseman’s performance ranks among the things he’s seen, Hurdle mentioned Larry Walker, Dante Bichette, Todd Helton and MVP-season Josh Hamilton.

“This is probably as good as I’ve ever seen,” Hurdle said. “I’ve seen some pretty special things. This would go right in that category. ... It’s been fantastically fun to watch.”

It was Bell who kickstarted Pittsburgh’s six-run seventh inning, clubbing a solo shot into the Rockies’ bullpen off reliever Carlos Estévez. Bryan Reynolds followed with a three-run drive to center field -- his first career pinch-hit homer -- and Starling Marte punctuated the big inning with a two-run homer to left.

“It’s a good day to hit,” Reynolds said. “Everybody up and down was crushing the ball.”

That rally eased some of the tension that built at PNC Park when the Rockies quickly ruined what was shaping up to be another terrific start for right-hander Jordan Lyles. They were happy to be on the other end of one of those “wipeout” games.

“It was awesome,” Bell said. “In situations like that, to bounce back, to let them know that we’re still right here, it goes a long way and allows our bullpen to shut the door.”

Lyles breezed through five innings on 65 pitches, at one point retiring 14 straight hitters. But Colorado struck back the third time through the order, racking up five hits and a walk against Lyles before he was relieved by rookie Geoff Hartlieb. Lyles walked off the mound with five strong innings under his belt and a sour taste in his mouth.

Hartlieb walked Chris Iannetta, and then he served up a two-run single to pinch-hitter Daniel Murphy, which shrank Pittsburgh’s lead to two, before getting out of the inning.

“I had a chance to give the boys some rest out in the bullpen,” said Lyles, who still owns a 2.81 ERA after nine starts, eight of which the Pirates have won. “That one stings.”

The Pirates got to Rockies starter Antonio Senzatela early, putting up four runs in the first. Gregory Polanco launched his fifth home run, a two-run shot, to center field. Melky Cabrera doubled in a run and scored on the first of Colin Moran’s two RBI singles.

Lyles helped his own cause in the third, knocking a two-run single down the right-field line against Senzatela. But it was Bell who chased Senzatela in the fourth after banging a 3-0 fastball into right field for an RBI single.

“The offense was really good. You can’t say enough about what JB’s doing right now, Melky coming up with timely hits and Bryan coming off the bench and kind of putting the game away for a second time,” Lyles said. “That was huge. It was good to have a game offensively for us to get things back on track, for sure.”

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