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Josh Bell keys Pirates’ rout of Cubs with three homers

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Pirates All-Star first baseman Josh Bell swatted a trio of homers and knocked in seven runs, helping his team rout the Cubs 18-5 on Monday night. The Buccos amassed 23 hits of which 12 went for extra bases. Four of those extra-base hits came in the form of Adam Frazier doubles.

Bell now has a .308/.381/.654 batting line with 25 home runs, 77 RBI, and 65 runs scored in 362 plate appearances just past the halfway point of the season. I just can’t help but think about that anonymous scout who, for some reason, decided to trash Bell when he was interviewed by Sports Illustrated in a season preview. Wonder what he’s up to these days.

Bell is the 10th player this season to enjoy a three-homer game. He joins Paul Goldschmidt, Gary Sánchez, Christian Yelich, Justin Turner, Kris Bryant, Derek Dietrich, Pedro Severino, Max Kepler, and Hunter Renfroe. Bell is the first Pirate to have a three-homer game since Andrew McCutchen on July 30, 2017 against the Padres. McCutchen actually had the Pirates’ most recent three three-homer games prior to Bell.

In case you were curious, there have been only four other four-double games dating back to 2010: Víctor Martínez (Red Sox) on June 1, 2010; Brock Holt (Red Sox) on June 1, 2014; David Peralta (Diamondbacks) on April 22, 2017; and Matt Carpenter (Cardinals) on August 26, 2018.

The Pirates racked up 45 total bases, the most they’ve had in a game since their 47 total bases on August 1, 1970 against the Braves. The Cubs surrendered 45 or more total bases in a game just one other time dating back to 1995 — May 28, 2006 against the Braves.

Nats’ success shouldn’t be about Bryce Harper

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Bryce Harper turns 27 years old today. As an early birthday present, he got to watch his former team reach the World Series for the first time in franchise history. His new team finished exactly at .500 in fourth place, missing the playoffs. These were facts that did not go unnoticed as the Nationals completed an NLCS sweep of the Cardinals at home last night.

Harper spent seven seasons with the Nationals before hitting free agency and ultimately signing with the Phillies on a 13-million, $330 million contract. The Nationals offered Harper a 10-year, $300 million contract at the end of the 2018 regular season, but about $100 million of that was deferred until he was 65 which lowered the present-day value of the offer. The Nats’ offer wasn’t even in the same ballpark, really.

Nevertheless, Nationals fans were upset that their prodigy jilted them to go to the Phillies. He was mercilessly booed whenever the Phillies played in D.C. Nats fans’ Harper jerseys were destroyed, or at least taped over.

Harper, of course, was phenomenal with the Nationals. He won the NL Rookie of the Year Award in 2012, then won the NL MVP Award several years later with an historically outstanding 1.109 OPS while leading the league with 42 homers and 118 runs scored. Overall, as a National, he had a .900 OPS. Pretty good. He was also productive in the postseason, posting an .801 OPS across 19 games, mostly against playoff teams’ best starters and best relievers. Furthermore, if the Nats had Harper this year, he would have been in right field in lieu of Adam Eaton. Harper out OPS’d Eaton by 90 points and posted 2.5 more WAR in a similar amount of playing time. The Nationals would have been even better if they had Harper this year.

The Nationals lost all four Division Series they appeared in during the Harper era. 3-2 to the Cardinals in 2012, 3-1 to the Giants in ’14, 3-2 to the Dodgers in ’16, and 3-2 to the Cubs in ’17. They finally get over the hump the first year they’re without Harper, that’s the difference, right? I saw the phrase “addition by subtraction” repeatedly last night, referring to Harper and the Nats’ subsequent success without him.

Harper, though, didn’t fork over four runs to the Cardinals in the top of the ninth inning in Game 5 in 2012. He didn’t allow the Dodgers to rally for four runs in the seventh inning of Game 5 in ’16 before ultimately losing 4-3. He didn’t use a gassed Max Scherzer in relief in 2017’s Game 5, when he allowed five of the seven Cubs he faced to reach base, leading to three runs which loomed large in a 9-8 loss. If certain rolls of the dice in those years had gone the Nationals’ way, they would have appeared in the NLCS. They might’ve even been able to win a World Series.

The Nationals saw how that looks this year. It was the opposing manager this time, Dave Roberts, who mismanaged his bullpen. Howie Kendrick then hit a tie-breaking grand slam in the 10th inning off of Joe Kelly to win the NLDS for the Nats. The playoffs are random. Sometimes a ball bounces your way, sometimes an umpire’s call goes your way, and sometimes the opposing manager makes several unforced errors to throw Game 5 in your lap.

Reaching the World Series, then thumbing your nose while sticking out your tongue at Harper feels like a guy tagging his ex-girlfriend on his new wedding photos. It’s time to move on.