Pirates take step forward offensively thanks in part to hitting coach Jay Bell, who knows D-backs well.
By JACK MAGRUDER FS Arizona
PHOENIX -- Jay Bell was back in his comfort zone, and Pittsburgh may be getting there, too.
Pirates shook out of a weeklong hitting slump with a 5-3 victory over the Diamondbacks on Wednesday, when 2001 World Series hero Bell was back at Chase Field in his new role as Pittsburgh’s hitting coach.
The Pirates had scored only eight runs in their first six games, the lowest number in the major leagues, but they took advantage of an inconsistent Trevor Cahill to score three runs in the first inning and break a tie with another run in the fifth, the last giving them a lead they did not lose.
“It’s one of the things we’ve talked to the players about,” Bell said. “If you want to be a championship team, you have to compete against great teams. Right now, especially the way the Diamondbacks have started out, they certainly are showing who they are early on this season. So it is exciting for us to come in and get a win.”
Bell, who scored the winning run in Game 7 of the 2001 World Series for the D-backs, was given a nice ovation when he was introduced in the third inning, after his Pirates got off to a strong start.
Pittsburgh had only five hits but put together good at-bats when it mattered early.
Andrew McCutchen had an RBI double and
Travis Snider added a two-run single after consecutive two-out walks in the first inning, and McCutchen’s sacrifice fly broke a tie at 3 in the fifth off Cahill.
If it looked a little like the approach the D-backs favored while running to a 5-1 start -- passing the baton, everyone pulling on the same end of the rope. That might be because it is the style Bell took with him to the Pirates.
“That’s the thing we’ve tried to stress. It doesn’t take one of you to carry the team. It takes all of you,” Bell said.
“In reality, a lot of the stuff that I learned ... I spent a lot of time with ‘Groove’ (Don Baylor, D-backs hitting coach) years ago in New York, and I know what Turner (Ward, D-backs hitting assistant) is all about as well. Their approach to hitting is very similar to the stuff I am trying to teach over here.
“We really worked our at-bats against Trevor, and that really paid off for us. You know you have a lot of work to do when you come up against a starting staff like this, as well as a terrific bullpen. It’s awful encouraging when we cane have some at-bats like that.”
Paul Goldschmidt extended both his hitting and RBI streaks to five games, but the D-backs (5-2) did not get much other production despite the fact that Pirates’ starter Wandy Rodriguez was forced out of the game with one out in the third inning when he felt tightness in his left hamstring.
Goldschmidt doubled and scored on Wil Nieves’ single in the second inning, and Goldschmidt’s sacrifice to the warning track with the bases loaded and one out in the third off reliever Jeanmar Gomez drove in the first run in a two-run third inning that was capped by Alfredo Marte’s RBI single, his first major league hit and RBI.
The Pirates’ bullpen took over from there, with rookie left-hander Justin Wilson leading the way. Wilson gave up only one base runner in three innings, hitting Gerardo Parra with one out in the seventh before getting a double-play grounder. The D-backs did not get a hit after Nieves and Cliff Pennington opened the last of the fourth inning with singles.
“We can’t score five runs every night,” D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said.
The D-backs had 37 runs and a team-record 71 hits in their first six games of the season.
Cahill, who changed his diet and lost 15 pounds over the winter, opened the season with a goal of cutting down on his walks, but he struggled to command his stuff, as he did in his first start on April 2. He threw 89 pitches, 48 strikes, in five innings, and he has five walks and two hit batters in 10 2/3 innings.
“The whole game I was trying to find my arm slot. I felt like I couldn’t command the fastball. The fastball was coming out and I couldn’t tell where it was going, so I just aimed middle with some off-speed stuff and was able to get some outs that way,” Cahill said.
Cahill bunted into a force out at third base with runners on first and second and no outs in the fourth, when the Pirates ran a “wheel” play designed to get an out at third. The D-backs did not score, and the Pirates went ahead in the fifth.
“I saw the guys start moving and I was thinking about slashing, and it was just too late. You see all that stuff going and you don’ have time to process it, really.”
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