PITTSBURGH — Josh Bell and Gregory Polanco continued the Pirates’ late-season long ball parade on Tuesday, as they each contributed a home run in the Pirates’ 5-3 victory over the Baltimore Orioles on Wednesday.
Polanco hit a solo shot in the second inning and Bell contributed a two-run bomb in the third inning as the Pirates flipped an early deficit into a lead and never looked back.
Polanco’s home run was a laser beam, hit at 108 MPH and 22 degrees of launch angle seemingly straight into the glove of a young fan in the upper half of the seats above the Clemente Wall. It was Polanco’s first home run in over six weeks, and it was a good feeling to get a no-doubter right off the bat.
“That’s the best feeling ever,” Polanco said. “I hit and I knew. I was excited. I hadn’t hit one in a long time.”
For Bell, it’s been a different problem. The home runs have been there — he hit his 25th of the season and closed to within one of the Pirates’ single-season record for a rookie. But Bell’s batting average was at .252 before his 3 for 4 night, and he hasn’t been as happy with that.
“The only thing that’s gone in a downward climb this month has been his average,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “He hasn’t been getting hits. Timing has been off. He hasn’t been hitting the fastball like he was earlier. He’s synched it back up really well the last two nights. Hit a breaking ball today. Pounded it. It looks good. It’s fun.”
It’s funny, because a year ago, people were wondering if the power would ever come with Bell. Now, only Andrew McCutchen has hit more on the team as they’ve provided the lone one-two power punch in the lineup.
“I feel like I’m in a good spot,” Bell said. “It’s tough to follow what Cutch did last night, but I’m happy with what I’m bringing to the table. It’s cool brining a one-two punch there.”
Here’s more from Bell and Polanco on their power performances.
HE SAID IT
“I have no reason to go there right now. It’s all innuendo. It’s all speculation. We’ll see how it plays out. We have four more games to watch him play in Washington. Watch everybody play in Washington. My words won’t get twisted, he’s a big part of our team. I’m looking forward to seeing him play. There’s things that are in our control. What we have is four more games in this season. That’s all I’m focused on.” — Hurdle on Andrew McCutchen potentially having played his final game as a Pirates player at PNC Park.
GAME IN GRAPHS
Felipe Rivero uncorked at 102.6 mph fastball on Wednesday, which is the fastest pitch thrown by a pitcher other than Aroldis Chapman.
***Chad Kuhl went five-plus innings and worked around a rough second, when the Orioles got started with back-to-back infield singles and ended up scoring three runs. But he settled down for the fourth and fifth and ended up five strikeouts in his five frames, two of which came against Manny Machado. Kuhl also got Machado to ground into a double play to end the fifth inning.
“He was able to pitch him so effectively,” Hurdle said. “That’s another good sign of growth. Arguably, maybe the best hitter in their lineup. (Jonathan) Shoop’s had a big year. Machado is a guy. He got a lot of takes. Downhill angle on the fastball. Located well. He just made pitches, man. It was a real good show-up time for him in that confrontation one-on-one.”
More from Kuhl on his outing:
***The Pirates wrapped their home schedule, having brought 1,916,851 fans through the gates over 80 games (they played one home game in Williamsport, Pa.), for an average of 23,961 per game. That’s down 3,807 fans per game from 2016.
***Former Pirates player Pedro Alvarez played at PNC Park for the first time since he left the team in 2015. Alvarez went 2 for 4 and made a nice play at first base to start a 3-6-1 double play.
Before his first at-bat, a tribute video was played on the scoreboard and Alvarez was given an ovation by the PNC Park crowd.
“That was pretty cool,” he said. “I didn’t know what to expect. I thought it was very classy on the Pirates’ part. I’m not too much of an emotional guy, but that was pretty cool to get that kind of reception from the organization and the fans. … The whole thing was really neat. I’m still having a hard time trying to put it in words.”