Bell, Cole lead Pirates over Tigers
By BOB DUFF
DETROIT — A few words of advice from a Hall of Famer gave Josh Bell the inner belief that someday he would harness his power.
That time has arrived for the Pittsburgh Pirates rookie first baseman.
Bell hit his 20th homer and drove in three runs Thursday, leading the Pirates over the Detroit Tigers 7-5.
“Two years ago, we were having conversations about his power,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. “Where was it?”
It was around that time at the All-Star Futures Game that Bell got a chance to talk with Dave Winfield. The former slugger gave Bell some insight into why his potential had yet to blossom.
“It really started with Dave Winfield a couple of years ago at the Futures Game,” Bell said. “He said, average comes first and then the power will come.”
Last season, Bell hit 14 homers at Triple-A Indianapolis and another three in a brief stint with the Pirates. This season, his 45 extra-base hits are the most by a Pittsburgh rookie since Andrew McCutchen hit 49 in 2009.
“It’s definitely cool,” Bell said. “It’s not something I would have expected out of myself a couple of years ago.”
Bell’s first-inning sacrifice fly gave the Pirates the lead, and his two-run homer off Drew VerHagen (0-2) in the third put Pittsburgh ahead for good.
“It was a two-seamer that ran back out over the plate, and he jumped on it,” VerHagen said.
Gerrit Cole (10-8) allowed six hits and three earned runs in a season-high eight innings. He improved to 3-1 since the All-Star break and is 6-3 in his last 10 starts.
“It was his skillset, mindset and backbone,” Hurdle said. “He stayed with his gameplan. He stayed with his program, even though they scratched some runs off him early.”
Detroit has lost five of six.
“I thought we’d get to Cole early, the way it started out, but it was kind of the reverse,” Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said. “Cole settled in, and they got to VerHagen.”
Felipe Rivero got two outs for his 11th save.
Sean Rodriguez hit a solo home run and RBI single for the Pirates.
Detroit scored twice in the ninth on a double by Victor Martinez and an RBI groundout by James McCann.
Adam Frazier tripled and scored on Bell’s sacrifice fly in the first. The Tigers took the lead in the bottom half on a two-run triple by Nick Castellanos. Rodriguez tied it with a single in the second.
Bell hit a two-run homer in the third for a 4-2 lead. Mikie Mahtook had a solo homer in the bottom half.
Frazier’s two-out, two-run double in the fourth finished VerHagen.