PITTSBURGH -- The ball flew off his bat, and Josh Bell was sure it was gone. He swatted Seunghwan Oh's fastball toward the left-field seats, finished his powerful swing, hopped out of the batter's box and flipped his bat behind him as the Friday night crowd of 24,988 began to
PITTSBURGH -- The ball flew off his bat, and Josh Bell was sure it was gone. He swatted Seunghwan Oh's fastball toward the left-field seats, finished his powerful swing, hopped out of the batter's box and flipped his bat behind him as the Friday night crowd of 24,988 began to roar.
The ball landed 376 feet away, according to Statcast™, a few rows beyond the fence in PNC Park's left-field corner. Bell rounded the bases and met his raucous teammates at home plate to celebrate his first career walk-off hit, a three-run homer that gave the Pirates a 5-2 win over the Cardinals to open the second half of the season.
"It's unlike any other experience. It's like walking on a cloud," Bell said. "It's cool when the [ballpark] lights go off and come back on, and you're rounding third and seeing all your teammates there at home. I haven't had that feeling since Double-A. The stadium here is a little bit louder than that. Hopefully more to come."
Bell has shown a flair for the dramatic since his first weekend in Pittsburgh. He singled against the Cubs in his first Major League at-bat, and then for an encore, he crushed a pinch-hit grand slam the next day. Still, Friday was a first. The 24-year-old rookie celebrated his first game-ending hit in the big leagues.
"I'm not terribly surprised that he has a lot of success," starter Gerrit Cole said, "because he's a really good player."
Bell's ability was on full display Friday night. The switch-hitting first baseman walked in the first inning, pulled an RBI single to right in the third and walked again in the fifth. He came up in the ninth with two on and one out, swung and missed at Oh's first pitch and fell behind, 1-2.
"I was just telling myself to slow down," Bell said. "In situations like that, your heart rate spikes and you try to do too much."
When Oh threw a 93.7-mph fastball up and away, Bell stayed back and unleashed, sending it to the opposite field. It was his 17th home run, tied with Andrew McCutchen for most on the team. His four-RBI day brought his season total to 48, second only to McCutchen on the Pirates.
"He's found a way to get big hits," left fielder Adam Frazier said. "He's getting big hits for us, and he's a big part of our lineup."
Bell's high-average, high-OBP Minor League numbers have not fully translated to the Majors, and he got off to a rough start at the plate. But he has conclusively answered the two biggest questions about his game: Can he hit for power? And can he hold his own at first base?
Bell owns the Pirates' highest Isolated Power mark (.240), earning the cleanup spot behind McCutchen in the lineup, and he has recorded three Defensive Runs Saved with a .991 fielding percentage.
"We've talked about him being dangerous. We've talked about him learning as the season continues to grow on him," manager Clint Hurdle said. "[It's] fun to watch him grow. He's growing up right in front of our eyes."
In the middle of the ninth inning, Gregory Polanco approached Bell in the dugout and said, "Hey, bro, I want to go home." As soon as Bell flipped his bat, Polanco knew he wouldn't have to worry about extra innings. So did Bell.
"I thought so, and then it didn't go as far as I thought it was going to go," Bell said. "I hit it pretty good."
"Wow," Polanco added. "That's how you know you've got power."
Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and read his blog.