PITTSBURGH -- During their home finale on Wednesday night, the Pirates and fans at PNC Park recognized parts of Pittsburgh's past and present. There were video tributes for former infielder Pedro Alvarez and retiring broadcaster Kent Tekulve, and extended ovations for Andrew McCutchen. But their first baseman of the future made his mark, too, as Josh Bell went 3-for-4 with a homer and three RBIs in leading the Bucs to a 5-3 win over the Orioles.
Bell singled in a run in the first inning off O's right-hander Gabriel Ynoa and crushed his 25th homer to right-center field in the third, a two-run shot that gave the Pirates a one-run lead. Gregory Polanco also homered, and Starling Marte legged out an infield single to secure a seventh-inning insurance run. Bell is one shy of Jason Bay's franchise home run mark for a rookie (26 in 2004).
Bell has enjoyed a strong rookie campaign, but he was limping toward the finish line. Entering Tuesday's series opener, Bell was hitting just .174 over his previous 26 games. The past two games, he's bounced back and gone 5-for-8 with four RBIs. Of course, his two-hit night on Tuesday was overshadowed by McCutchen's eight-RBI performance.
"I feel like I'm in a good spot," Bell said. "It's tough to follow up what Cutch did last night, but I'm happy with what I'm bringing to the table. It's cool being a little 1-2 punch there."
And Bell's big night on Wednesday came amid questions about whether it was also McCutchen's last home game as a Pirate. Knowing he has a $14.5 million club option for next season that could spark another offseason of trade rumors, the crowd of 24,779 delayed McCutchen's first at-bat with a lengthy ovation and cheered again before his final plate appearance.
The night also saw a rousing send-off for Tekulve, the former Pirates reliever and current broadcaster, as he worked his final home game before retiring. There was also a moment of recognition for Alvarez, who spent six seasons in Pittsburgh before catching on with the Orioles.
"It was very classy on the Pirates' part," Alvarez said. "I'm not too much of an emotional guy, but that was pretty cool to get that kind of a reception from the organization and the fans."
Amid all the ceremony, the Pirates mustered enough run support to deliver Chad Kuhl a win in his final start of the season. Kuhl held the Orioles to three runs -- all scored in the second inning -- on eight hits while striking out five in five-plus innings. The suddenly shut-down bullpen took over from there, recording the final 12 outs to give the Bucs their fourth straight win. After carrying a 5.58 ERA through his first 15 starts, Kuhl finished by posting a 3.38 mark in his final 16 outings.
"When stuff isn't going well, it's fight or flight," Kuhl said. "You have to figure it out on the fly. I think I'm a lot more comfortable."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Taking their Chance: Catcher Chance Sisco was in the middle of the Orioles' three-run second inning. After a pair of singles by Alvarez and Trey Mancini, Sisco ripped an RBI double to left field. Mancini scored on a groundout by J.J. Hardy, then Sisco came home on Anthony Santander's RBI double to center for a 3-1 lead.
El Coffee heating up: This has been a disappointing, inconsistent, injury-riddled season for Polanco, but he still swings one of the most potent bats in Pittsburgh. The Bucs right fielder showed his considerable power in the second inning, swatting his 11th home run of the season -- and his first since Aug. 4 -- into the right-field seats off Ynoa. According to Statcast™, Polanco's solo shot came off his bat at 108.4 mph and traveled a projected 418 feet.
"That's the best feeling ever, you know?" Polanco said. "I hit it and I knew. I was excited. It has been a long time without a homer. It was special and a good feeling. I feel great."
"No, and I have no reason to go there right now. It's all innuendo. It's all speculation. We'll see how it all plays out. We have four more games to watch him play in Washington, watch everyone play in Washington. My words won't get twisted. He's a good part of our team. I look forward to seeing him play. There's things that are in our control. What we have now is four more games in this season. That's what I'm focused on."-- Pirates manager Clint Hurdle, asked if he thought about Wednesday being McCutchen's final home game in Pittsburgh
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
In the ninth inning, Pirates closer Felipe Rivero threw a 102.6-mph fastball -- the hardest pitch of the season thrown by anyone other than Aroldis Chapman.
The Pirates finished the year with a 43-37 record at PNC Park and a 44-37 record in "home" games, including the MLB Little League Classic in Williamsport. The Bucs drew 1,916,851 fans for a per-game average of 23,961.
WHAT'S NEXT Orioles: Following an off-day on Thursday, the O's will close out their season with a three-game series against the Rays beginning at 7:10 p.m. ET on Friday at Tropicana Field. Left-hander Wade Miley, who has yielded 16 runs in his last 10 1/3 innings, will start the series opener.
Pirates: With their home schedule complete, the Pirates hit the road to finish the season with a four-game series that begins at 7:05 p.m. ET on Thursday night at Nationals Park. Ivan Nova will make his final start, looking to finish a rough second half on a high note.