PITTSBURGH (AP) — Josh Bell spent some time in the seats above the Clemente Wall in right field at PNC Park on Friday night, carefully folding a handful of gold T-shirts with the phrase “Bellieve” on them over the chairs as part of a promotion that is doubling as an All-Star Game push for the scorching Pittsburgh Pirates first baseman.
The 26-year-old stressed, however, that he only laid out a couple of shirts. Three maybe. Four, tops. Team employees handed out the rest. Bell had other things to do pregame, namely sticking to the routine that helped him put together one of the most remarkable months in the franchise’s long history.
Bell had two of Pittsburgh’s 13 hits — all singles — in Pittsburgh’s 9-4 victory over Milwaukee on Friday night. Bell hit .389 in May with 12 home runs, 12 doubles and 31 RBIs. His 94 total bases during the month are the most by any Pirate in any month ever. Heady territory considering Pittsburgh started playing baseball a century — and then some — before Bell was born.
“I feel like I’m just riding the wave,” Bell said.
One that doesn’t appear close to cresting.
Bell’s total base mark broke Hall of Famer Ralph Kiner’s record of 92 set in June, 1947. Bell is also one of only three players in National League history to have 12 home runs and 12 doubles in the same month, joining Hall of Famers Frank Robinson and Hank Aaron.
“He pushes himself,” Pittsburgh pitcher Chris Archer (2-5) said of Bell after picking up his first victory since April 7. “If he gets out, he’s mad. He’s hitting .340 and he’s angry that he’s got out, which continues to keep him motivated. He’s not content. We’ve got four months left in the season and I expect to see big things from him going forward.”
Bell didn’t provide any big blasts Friday night, but contributed to a flood of small ones as the Pirates jumped on struggling Milwaukee starter Jhoulys Chacin to win for just the fourth time in 11 games. Starling Marte had three hits and scored three times and Kevin Newman went 2 for 5 with two RBIs to extend his hitting streak to a career-best 10 games.
Chacin (3-7) fell to 1-7 in his last 10 starts when his command abandoned him in the third inning. The 11-year-veteran walked four batters in the frame, three of them with the bases loaded, including a five-pitch walk to Archer that pushed Pittsburgh’s lead to 5-1. Freddy Peralta replaced Chacin and Newman delivered a liner to left field that allowed Colin Moran and Adam Frazier to score and push Pittsburgh’s advantage to 7-1.
Chacin — a 15-game winner last season for a team that reached the National League Championship Series — saw his ERA balloon to 5.74 after being charged with seven runs in 2 2/3 innings, with two strikeouts. His four walks marked a season high and he threw just 40 of his 76 pitches for strikes.
“I just lost my focus in that inning,” Chacin said. “That never happened to me before, walking guys with the bases loaded like that. I need to start to do a better job if I want to keep pitching.”
Something that might not be guaranteed. Asked if Chacin might need a break, Milwaukee manager Craig Counsell said only: “We’ve got to figure out how to get him pitching the way he’s capable of.”
Archer came in winless since early April, a stretch that’s watched the centerpiece of a deal that sent Tyler Glasnow and Austin Meadows to Tampa Bay search for answers. He seemed to find some in a bullpen session in Cincinnati while throwing to Jacob Stallings. Stallings encouraged Archer to rely more on his fastball, and Archer responded by striking out seven with two walks in seven innings. He gave up a solo home run to Jesus Aguilar in the third and a three-run shot to Keston Hiura in the fourth but settled down afterward.
“I’m going to stay relentless,” Archer said. “I’ve been doing this a long time. I’m not going to let (a slump) define me.”
Brewers: C Manny Pina (right hamstring discomfort) is expected to rejoin Milwaukee over the weekend.
Pirates: RHP Jordan Lyles (left hamstring discomfort) will start Sunday’s series finale. … RHP Keone Kela will be shut down for 10 days after the right shoulder discomfort that sent him to the injured list popped back up during a rehab assignment.
Brewers: Brandon Woodruff (7-1, 3.22 ERA) will look for his seventh straight win on Saturday. Woodruff limited the Phillies to one run in eight innings last Sunday.
Pirates: Nick Kingham (1-1, 8.28) hasn’t won a game as a starter since last July, but will get the nod on Saturday.
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