There already were fireworks by the fifth inning celebrating Pittsburgh’s Bicentennial, but in Saturday’s Pittsburgh Pirates game against the Chicago Cubs, Josh Bell was not satisfied.
In his second major league game, Bell took a swing at a 1-1 Adam Warren (3-2) pitch and when he saw it in the air, gave a jump and fist pump all while screaming “let’s go” as he rounded the bases for his first career home run.
Bell had hit a grand slam 107 miles-per-hour off the bat and was the first pinch-hit grand slam from a Pirate since Michael Morse accomplished the feat last Sept. 12.
“Aside from pure joy and excitement, there’s no other feeling that comes close to that experience for me,” Bell said. “I couldn’t ask for much more from that situation, and I am happy to pull through. Two to three minutes seemed like an hour and a half. It’s everything that a kid wishes for as a baseball player.”
A pinch-hit GRAND SLAM for Josh Bell's FIRST career home run.
— FOX Sports (@FOXSports) July 10, 2016
There was no chance for the usual rookie hi jinx such as a silent treatment. Bell has ensured the Pirates would stay ahead for good after a seesaw game.
It was a special moment for Pirates manager Clint Hurdle, who experienced an emotion he rarely has.
“I get goosebumps,” he said. “I’ve probably had goosebumps a dozen times since I’ve been a coach or manager. Freese was standing next to me, and I told him I had goosebumps and chills ran down my spine. The stadium was pretty excited too.”
Chad Kuhl also got to watch the hit from a different vantage point. He had an early exit in the win, departing after 2.1 innings and he was in the clubhouse wearing shorts.
“I put my head down for a second, looked back up and saw the ball in the air and knew it was gone,” said Kuhl. “I was fist pumping in there.”
There is excitement for good reason as the Pirates, who were 14 games back of the Cubs for the National League Central, now have cut the lead to 6.5 games.
“I came up and June was a struggle for the Pirates,” said Kuhl. “We came up and were on the tail end of that slump. It’s nice to have the offense going. The bullpen has been incredible, and it is nice to have all those facets finally going our way.”
Kuhl struggles lead to early exit
It was an outing to forget for Kuhl as his major problem from his no-decision against the Oakland Athletics returned once again Saturday, balls being pitched higher in the zone which lowered his ground ball outs.
Kuhl appeared set to have a 1-2-3 inning to begin his night as he struck out Tommy La Stella. He had Kris Bryant struck out on a 3-2 sinker, but home plate umpire Larry Vanover never flinched as the Cubs left fielder took his base.
Two batters later, Ben Zobrist hit his 13th home run of the season placing the Cubs in the lead.
“It’s just a call that you want,” Kuhl said. “You try not to let it affect you. I don’t think it really affected the rest of the game, obviously it turned out to be a big pitch as it led to a two-run home run. It’s something you have to move on from and attack the next hitter.”
Hurdle admitted the fly ball contact ended Kuhl’s night early, as did his 55 pitches thrown through 2.1 innings.
“We needed to slow them down,” said Hurdle. “We’ll coach him up tomorrow and get back after it.”
Caminero, Hughes halt Cubs momentum
Though Juan Nicasio and A.J. Schugel each flinched in the Pirates bullpen during this game, both Arquimedes Caminero and Jared Hughes were able to keep the Cubs off the scoreboard.
Caminero (1-2) earned the win pitching 1.2 innings and striking out all three Cubs batters he faced in the fifth inning.
Hughes earned his first save since Oct. 1, 2012 and third save of his career, joking afterwards to reporters that the outing was the second time in his life he was clocked at 96 miles per-hour on the radar gun.
It was a three-inning save for Hughes, who went that deep into an outing for the first time since April 20, 2012.
“I’m just thinking about keeping my pitch count low and eating up some innings,” he said. “I was a starter in the minors, I’ve gone long before, so I knew I could do it. I’m at my best when I limit my pitches and get ahead in the count.”
Andrew McCutchen hit his 13th home run of the season against Jon Lester. It was the 164th of his Pirates career placing him in a tie with Frank Thomas for solo seventh place. Brian Giles is sixth on the last with 165 career homers.
— Pirates (@Pirates) July 10, 2016
Jon Lester finished June with a 4-0 record and 1.41 ERA in six starts but is 0-1 with a 28.54 ERA in 4.1 innings through two July starts… Both Josh Harrison (left foot discomfort) and Matt Joyce (left quad muscle tightness), departed early from the game. Hurdle told reporters after the game that Harrison’s tests were done and everything was fine. He had no update on Joyce. Hurdle was also unsure if Gregory Polanco (left hamstring tightness) would have been a bench option in this game.
The Pirates have already won their third consecutive series, but will look for a sweep with Jonathon Niese (7-6, 4.87 ERA) takes on John Lackey (7-5, 3.50 ERA). Niese is 3-8 with a 5.35 ERA in 12 career starts against the Cubs.