PITTSBURGH — Josh Bell has had a tough third season at the plate, with an overall drop in production and especially in extra-base hits.
Bell might have turned the corner in that department on Friday, with two doubles and a triple as part of his four-hit night that helped Pittsburgh to a 7-3 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers.
Bell came into the game with two extra-base hits in July and was slugging .378, third-worst among qualified first basemen. He credited a change in mindset rather than anything mechanical.
"It's just one of those things where you get your butt kicked so many times in this game, you've kind of got to take a step back and realize that sometimes it's you making it harder than it is," Bell said. "Just trying to take a step back and allow them to come to me."
Bell's big night followed a three-walk game on Thursday. The combination of times on base and extra base hits has his OPS at .736, the highest it's been since mid-May.
"Love seeing it, and he's been working hard," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said.
The Pirates got to Milwaukee starter Junior Guerra (6-6) early and often. They scored three runs in the first on Gregory Polanco's sacrifice fly, an RBI single by Colin Moran and Bell's run-scoring double.
Polanco hit his 14th home run of the season in the fourth inning.
In the fifth, Moran scored on Bell's double with the aid of Lorenzo Cain's error. Jordy Mercer then drove in Bell with a double. Bell drove in Moran again with a triple in the eighth.
Nick Kingham (4-4) tied a career high with nine strikeouts and allowed three runs over 6 1/3 innings. Kingham walked just one batter and 63 of his 95 pitches went for strikes.
"I think you get ahead in the count, you're the aggressor and that kind of puts the batter on their heels," he said, "They may swing at some pitches they typically don't swing at. Now that I'm pounding strikes, just getting them to chase on some good pitches."
Kyle Crick got four outs for his second save of the season.
Guerra yielded six runs, nine hits and two walks in four innings. He struck out four.
"It was just a rough outing for him," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. "They swung the bats well against him. A lot of balls in the middle that got hit. Just one that he's going to wipe out. It wasn't very good."
The fourth-place Pirates have won five of their last six. First-place Milwaukee has lost four of five and its lead has been cut to a half-game over the Chicago Cubs.
The Brewers' slide has come as they finish the first half on a stretch of 21 games in 20 days, but Counsell brushed off any notion of fatigue.
"We're 90 games in and we've got 70 games to go," he said. "That's not time to be tired."
Brewers reliever Brandon Woodruff, recalled from Triple-A Colorado Springs, pitched three innings of one-hit relief and hit his first career home run.
"That's something that not everybody, especially a pitcher gets to do," Woodruff said. "It's definitely special."
Milwaukee optioned right-handed reliever Adrian Houser to the minors.
Brewers: RF Eric Thames left the game in the second inning with left hamstring tightness. Hernan Perez replaced him.
Pirates: INF/OF Sean Rodriguez went 1 for 2 with a home run and two walks in his rehab appearance with Triple-A Indianapolis.
Brewers: RHP Chase Anderson (6-6, 3.18 ERA) is scheduled to start the first game of a doubleheader Saturday, with LHP Brent Suter (8-5, 4.53 ERA) following in the second game.
Pirates: RHP Ivan Nova (5-6, 4.50 ERA) is in line to start the first game, followed by RHP Clay Holmes (0-1, 7.11 ERA), who is expected to be recalled from High-A Bradenton as the 26th man. It will be Holmes' second MLB start.