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Bell's 3-RBI night fuels Bucs' comeback win

Slugger back in groove after taking a few days off to reset
@SarahWexler32
August 14, 2019

ANAHEIM -- It looks like a three-day breather may have been exactly what Josh Bell needed. Bell, serving as Pittsburgh’s designated hitter, helped key a comeback on Tuesday night against the Angels at Angel Stadium with a home run and three RBIs in a 10-7 victory. The win clinched the

ANAHEIM -- It looks like a three-day breather may have been exactly what Josh Bell needed.

Bell, serving as Pittsburgh’s designated hitter, helped key a comeback on Tuesday night against the Angels at Angel Stadium with a home run and three RBIs in a 10-7 victory. The win clinched the series for the Pirates, who had dropped their previous eight.

Box score

After hitting 27 homers and posting a 1.024 OPS prior to the All-Star break, Bell slowed down considerably, hitting .176/.299/.230 in 22 games to open the second half. That prompted manager Clint Hurdle to give Bell some downtime to reset mentally. In five games since the benching, Bell has gone 9-for-21 and has retaken the Major League lead for RBIs with 98.

“I thought he handled himself well during the three days down,” said Hurdle. “I thought he did the appropriate amount of work, I thought he stayed ready and showed up here with intent.”

For Bell, that work was mainly trying to pinpoint what he was doing right when things were going well for him.

“It was just watching video, trying to understand where I was at when things were going well,” said Bell. “It’s easy to get into little ruts in this game, and try to focus on the right things, but I wasn’t focusing on the right things.”

In leading the Pirates’ comeback charge, Bell had the opportunity to showcase some of the adjustments he made. It started with driving in the first run of a three-run rally in the third. Bell came up with runners on the corners and blooped a ball into left field that Justin Upton couldn’t glove, allowing Adam Frazier to score. The second run scored after Bell took second on the play and Angels starter Griffin Canning overthrew the bag. Bell scored on Colin Moran’s double.

Bell attributes his ability to get to that pitch -- a fastball on the upper-inside corner of the zone -- to the work he did during his time off.

“Timing’s just huge for me, so I was able to focus on timing and riding my front side out, starting my swing as deep as I could on the back side,” said Bell. “At least with that hit that I got tonight, the fastball up and in that I was able to fight off into left field. I haven’t done that in a long time. So hopefully there’s more of that to come.”

With a runner on in the fifth, Bell crushed an 0-2 cutter from Taylor Cole to the opposite field, clearing the wall in left-center to tie the game. It was his 31st home run of the season and his fourth in the last three games after having not gone yard since June 5. The ball left the bat at 107 mph and traveled 410 feet, according to Statcast.

Hurdle referred to Bell going opposite field on a pitch in the outer part of the zone as “a good sign.”

“You show hitters spray charts when they’re going good, where balls are located and where they’re hitting them,” said Hurdle. “And we’ve pulled all our players individually and shown them their spray charts when they do well and have success, where their contact points are, to try to re-address it and recalibrate it. Josh has found his way since we got him back in the lineup, for sure. He’s more athletic, seems [to have] more rhythm, the hand pivot’s playing, strong presence in the box.”

The Pirates have won two straight games after a rough 4-24 stretch to open the second half. While playoff hopes have dwindled, closing out the season strong remains important to the Pirates. How Bell fares will play a significant role in his team’s ability to do that.

“I feel like it’s momentum-building,” said Bell. “It’s awesome to get the bats alive, to close it out with our bullpen. Hopefully, a start to a new trend the next couple of weeks, and hopefully we can finish this thing strong.”

Sarah Wexler is a reporter/editor for MLB.com based in Los Angeles. Follow her on Twitter @SarahWexler32.