Baseball / MLB

Pirates slugger Josh Bell bashes three homers in rout of Cubs

AP, Reuters

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 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. Adam Frazier’s four doubles matched a mark accomplished more than 40 times, the last by Matt Carpenter of St. Louis on Aug. 26, 2018.

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.

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.

Kang Jung-ho smacked 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.

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.”

Brewers 8, Reds 6

In Cincinnati, Christian Yelich belted his majors-leading 30th homer and drove in three runs as Milwaukee topped the hosts.

Keston Hiura and Lorenzo Cain each launched a solo homer, and Ben Gamel, Mike Moustakas and Yasmani Grandal drove in one run apiece for the Brewers, who have won three in a row overall and seven of 10 games against the Reds this season.

Blue Jays 11, Royals 4

In Toronto, Freddy Galvis homered twice and Cavan Biggio and Randal Grichuk each had four RBIs, while Clayton Richard won for the first time in more than a year.

Richard (1-4) allowed three runs and seven hits in six innings on Canada Day to earn his first win since June 22, 2018, when he was with the San Diego Padres. He was 0-9 with a 7.10 ERA in 18 starts between wins.

Rays 6, Orioles 3

In St. Petersburg, Florida, Kevin Kiermaier slugged a go-ahead, three-run homer in the sixth, leading Tampa Bay past Baltimore.

Giants 13, Padres 2

In San Diego, Jeff Samardzija allowed two runs over eight inning and Kevin Pillar, Evan Longoria and Austin Slater homered to lead a 14-hit attack as San Francisco routed the hosts in the opener of a three-game series.

Angels at Rangers — ppd.