Bell's 3 homers powers Pirate win
Josh Bell certainly looks ready for the Home Run Derby.
Pittsburgh's All-Star first baseman hit three home runs to boost his season total to 25, leading the 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, 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.
Adam Frazier finished 5 for 6 and tied a major league record with four doubles. Colin Moran had a career-high five hits for the Pirates.
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 shared by many players - Matt Carpenter of St. Louis was the last to do it 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 dropping their third straight.
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. Cubs manager Joe 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 screaming 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.
Trevor Williams (3-2) took advantage of the outburst to pick up his first victory since May 10. It wasn't exactly easy. Williams had trouble nursing an early 7-1 lead. The Cubs closed to 7-4 in the fourth before Williams worked out of a bases-loaded jam by getting Bryant to pop out.
The Pirates responded in the bottom of the inning, including an RBI single by Williams that helped pushed Pittsburgh's advantage to 10-4. Williams lasted 5 2/3 innings, allowing five runs on nine hits with three walks and four strikeouts.
Pittsburgh is trying to hang around in the crowded NL Central, where all five teams entered July separated by 5 1/2 games. The club pointed to a seven-game homestand against the Cubs and Brewers heading into the All-Star break as a chance to build some momentum.
The outburst against Chicago gave Pittsburgh 10 wins in 16 games following an eight-game losing streak that threatened to derail the season.
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.