Pirates designated hitter breaks up Verlander's no-hit bid
By Jordan Horrobin
DETROIT -- Josh Bell always prepares for the fastball. And facing Tigers ace Justin Verlander, who was successfully pumping them by Pirates hitters on Wednesday night, it was a safe bet.
So when Verlander threw Bell a slider in the sixth inning of the Bucs' 10-0 loss, he simply reacted, poking it into left field for a hustle double to end Verlander's no-hit bid while maintaining his hot streak at the plate.
"I guess I didn't really know [about the no-hitter] until the fourth," Bell said. "He really commanded that fastball well, but he left that slider out a little for me. I was able to get the barrel to the ball and shoot it out there."
Bell finished with two doubles (the Pirates had three hits all night) and a walk to reach safely in three of four plate appearances. He's 10-for-28 (.357) in his past 10 games, with two doubles, a home run and four walks, while also hitting .355 in his past 15 road games.
Facing Verlander for the first time in his career, Bell yielded increasingly better results in his three trips to the plate against the 34-year-old veteran. In the second, Verlander blew a full count, 96-mph fastball by Bell for a strikeout. In the fourth, Bell took a four-pitch walk.
Then, with two out in the sixth, Bell saw two inside fastballs -- one he took for a ball, one he fouled off -- and a slider that moved in from the outer edge of the plate.
Bell shot the pitch down to third, where Nicholas Castellanos had shifted a few extra feet away from the bag. The ball grazed Castellanos' glove and trickled into the outfield, allowing Bell to gallop to second and slide in safely.
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said he views Bell, a second-year player who turns 25 on Monday, as a "very dangerous hitter." Despite Bell's slow start to the season, as well as his funk from late May to early July in which he hit .199, Hurdle said Bell has the ability to attack wherever a pitch is thrown.
"It's not like you can say, 'Well, I can get him up and get him to chase,'" Hurdle said. "Yeah, you can get him to chase, and then the barrel will show up. You can go down and he can hit a lot of different areas. He's got really good hand-eye coordination. He's been fun to watch develop in that cleanup spot."
Bell batted cleanup again on Wednesday, for the 31st time this season, and served as the designated hitter for the second time in his career. Growing up in Texas as a Rangers fan, he didn't know much about the National League and its non-DH rule until the Pirates selected him in the second round of the 2011 MLB Draft.
Bell liked having the freedom to hit in the batting cage between innings. But he's also looking forward to returning to his usual spot in the field at first base on Thursday, while he tries to keep his offensive streak going.
"I definitely respect what DHs do, for them to just fine-tune everything between each at-bat, watch video and really focus on hitting as their craft," Bell said. "That's definitely a cool experience. But playing first base, I feel like more a part of the team playing defense, too. So maybe later on in my career, but right now, NL is a lot of fun playing on both sides of the ball."
Jordan Horrobin is a reporter for MLB.com based in Detroit. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.