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Josh Bell walk off homer leads Pirates to 5-2 win over St. Louis

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Josh Bell's late-game heroics lifted the Pirates to a 5-2 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals at PNC Park Friday night to open the weekend series with their NL Central foe.

Maybe Seung Hwan Oh didn’t get his copy of the scouting report Friday night.

If he did, the Cardinals’ closer would have known four straight fastballs to a power-hitting first baseman might just spell travesty.

“I don’t know what he was thinking,” Josh Bell said looking back at an at-bat that included the hardiest of cuts on the first-pitch.

Just three pitches later, Bell took advantage of the consistent heat, punishing Oh and St. Louis (43-46) with a walk-off, three-run homer over the left field wall, giving Pittsburgh (43-47) a 5-2 win Friday night at PNC Park.

The first baseman (2-for-3 with two walks), who clubbed his first career-walk-of, hammered the 93 mph four-seamer 376 feet on a laser over the reach of a retreating Tommy Pham.

Andrew McCutchen (1-for-3) was intentionally walked to set up a double play as Adam Frazier, who reached on a double, remained at second base with one out in the ninth inning.

“It’s cool to be able to get my first walk-off here at home,” said Bell, who hit his team-leading 17th home run Friday night.  “It’s cool to be put in that situation.  Kudos to Cutch for hitting .300 and just going off the last couple of months.”

“He did a lot of good things at the plate,” said Clint Hurdle of his hot-swinging first baseman.  “We’ve talked about him being dangerous.  We’ve talked about him learning as the season continues to grow on him- taking his at-bats.  Fun to watch him grow.  He’s just a fun player to watch.”

Bell, who knocked in four of five runs for the Pirates, rung away a completely different tone to start the game, with starter Gerrit Cole getting charged with a Jedd Gyorko (1-for-4) two-run home run in the first inning, where Cole tossed 30 of his 102 pitches.

Cole found a rhythm following the first, settling into another quality start, going six innings, giving up four hits with four strike outs with just the two earned runs.

“I just tried to stay aggressive.  I found the zone and got some quick outs here and there, which got us into the sixth” Cole said.

The starter talked about Bell’s big moment.

“It was big for us.  He drove the run in early in the game well.  Just a really nice game for him.”

Gregory Polanco, who missed a home run by just inches of the right field foul pole in the fourth inning, talked about encouraging Bell to end the game for the sake of nabbing a big win and avoiding those pesky extra innings.

“I said, ‘just go, I want to do it tonight,’” said Polanco, who went 2-for-4, knocking in the only RBI not collected by Bell.  “I said, ‘you better be ready because I don’t want to go extra innings.’  You know, it’s that talk we do in the dugout, where we’re pushing each other.  We got a great relationship me and Josh.  I was so happy for him, I was jumping.  That was great to watch.”

Buried in the masterpiece that was Bell’s heroics was Felipe Rivero’s consistent dominance from the mound, where the reliver clipped three Cardinals’ hitters—including a three-pitch strikeout of Stephen Piscotty—in just eight pitches in a scoreless ninth, netting Rivero his fourth win of the season.

“Eight pitches.  Nothing but filth,” said Hurdle of Rivero.  “As a hitter, he’s got three pitches, and you don’t know what he’s going to throw, when he’s going to throw it.  They’re coming out of the same slot.  One’s three digits, the other got tilt, the other’s got down-tilt, slide-tilt.  It’s tough.”

Hurdle-ism 101

That’s the beauty of being up here for a full-season, it’s going to take you a lot of places.  He’s learning a lot of valuable lessons through the challenging times, kind of like when you walk through the desert- you have to figure some things out.  There’s not water around every corner.  I don’t even know if there’s corners in the desert.

-Clint Hurdle on Adam Frazier learning the ropes in the big leagues as a rookie.

Tossed

The wisdom of Hurdle did not fall on benevolent ears with home plate umpire Jerry Layne who tossed the skipper from the game in the sixth inning after arguing Frazier’s attempt to take second base after a 4-5 double play, in which the umpire called timeout before the base-advancement.

Hurdle later admitted that he did see a replay of Marvin Hudson’s arm slightly going up to indicate timeout. 

After the Moneyline

The Pirates (-125) start the second half of the season with a victory a slight juice victory.  They are 3-4 against the Cardinals this year.  The under (8.5) hit with seven-total reaching the board.  The Pirates have gone under in 12 of 14 games.

Next Up

Lance Lynn (7-6, 3.61) will take the hill against Jameson Taillon (5-2, 2.73) in game two of the three-game weekend series Saturday night.  First pitch is set for 7:05.

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