PITTSBURGH (AP) — Josh Bell isn’t worried about the Home Run Derby messing with the considerable mojo he’s built during his breakout season. Quite the opposite. Bell is pumped for the chance to step into the batter’s box and swing for the fences with everyone in baseball watching.
So pumped, in fact, he’s already started practicing.
The first-time All-Star smashed three home runs to boost his season total to 25, leading the Pittsburgh Pirates to an 18-5 rout over the Chicago Cubs on Monday night.
Bell, who will be part of the eight-man derby field in Cleveland next week, hit a three-run shot off rookie Adbert Alzolay (1-1) in the first inning, a two-run drive off Alzolay in the second and finished off a four-hit, seven-RBI night by taking new Chicago closer Craig Kimbrel deep in the eighth as Pittsburgh began a pivotal seven-game homestand by pounding out a season-high 23 hits.
“Hopefully, that turns the corner for me a little bit and I can get back on track,” said Bell, who might have matched his entire home run total from June in one game if not for a screamer to deep left field in the fifth that died at the wall.
Bell almost singlehandedly carried the injury-ravaged Pirates through May, when he smacked a dozen home runs on his way to being selected National League player of the month. He cooled off in June, hitting just .208. Yet the Pirates stayed within striking distance in the crowded NL Central thanks in part to a resurgent offense that was on full display against Alzolay and four Cubs relievers.
Adam Frazier finished 5 for 6 and tied a major league record with four doubles. Colin Moran had a career-high five hits for as Pittsburgh boosted its team batting average to .268, fourth-best in the majors.
“I feel like we did a good job of showing what we can do this past month and you know tonight, it all came together one through nine,” Bell said.
He’s not kidding. Trevor Williams (3-2) picked up his first win since May 10 and added a key RBI single during the fourth to help the Pirates pull away. Fellow pitcher Steven Brault added a pinch-hit single in the sixth. All eight position players finished with at least one hit.
Jung Ho Kang hit his seventh home run of the season off Chicago infielder Daniel Descalso, who made a cameo on the mound in the seventh with the game well out of hand. Jose Osuna hit a solo home run off Kimbrel, who came on to get some work after making his debut with the Cubs last week.
Bell became the 20th Pirates player to hit three home runs in a game and the first left-handed batter to do it since Hall of Famer Willie Stargell in 1971. Frazier’s four doubles matched a mark accomplished more than 40 times, the last by Matt Carpenter of St. Louis on Aug. 26, 2018.
Javier Báez hit his 21st home run for Chicago. Kris Bryant and David Bote had two hits each, but the Cubs couldn’t keep pace while falling out of first in the NL Central.
“Give them credit,” Chicago manager Joe Maddon said. “They barreled up, out of 23 of the (hits), maybe 22. They were really impressive offensively. You can’t take that away from them. They were that good.”
Alzolay had dazzled in his first two appearances for Chicago, including a nine-strikeout effort in a no-decision against Atlanta last week in his first start. Maddon hoped he could get six innings and 100 pitches out of the 24-year-old Alzolay in his first major league outing away from Wrigley Field.
It didn’t quite go that way.
Alzolay let his first four batters reach base, punctuated by Bell’s laser shot to the seats above the 21-foot-high Clemente Wall in right field. Bell did it again with two outs in the second inning, lining another Alzolay offering just a bit to the right of his first homer.
Alzolay finally exited after giving up seven runs in 2 2/3 innings with a walk and three strikeouts as his ERA zoomed from 2.08 to 7.15.
“To me, it’s just one of those days that you feel good but you feel you don’t have your best pitches,” Alzolay said. “I’m just going to go to the next game now. Forget about it, what happened tonight.”
The Cubs fell a game behind Milwaukee with their second straight loss and have struggled on the road. Chicago is just 16-24 away from Wrigley Field and 7-11 over its last 18 games.
“We’ve got to play better in all facets,” said Descalso, a second baseman by trade who gave up two runs in one inning of mop-up work. “I don’t think the product we’ve put out on the field recently is indicative of the team we have in here and the talent we have in here.”
Cubs: LHP Cole Hamels underwent an MRI on his strained left oblique. There was no initial word on the results.
Pirates: RHP Jameson Taillon (right arm strain) did not throw over the weekend as planned. Taillon, who hasn’t pitched since May 1, remains out indefinitely.
Cubs: RHP Kyle Hendricks (7-5, 3.36 ERA) returns Tuesday from a stint on the injured list due to right shoulder inflammation. Hendricks is 4-5 with a 3.14 ERA in 13 starts against Pittsburgh.
Pirates: RHP Joe Musgrove (6-7, 4.27) is 2-2 with a 1.37 ERA in four starts against the Cubs.