The Washington Nationals spent April of the 2021 season searching for their identity and struggling to drive in the many baserunners they’ve generated this season. But when the calendar flipped to May, the Nats looked like they had flipped the switch on their offense.
In beating the Miami Marlins, 7-2, the team won a season-high third straight, moved within a game of .500, and finally had success with men on base. While 3-for-12 with runners in scoring position and eight men left on might sound similar to some losses this season, it was a breath of fresh air in the Nationals’ 12-hit attack.
No National flipped the switch faster than first baseman Josh Bell — in less than 24 hours.
Bell turned in his first multi-hit game of the season, driving in four runs in a 2-for-4 performance, ending a 1-for-22 skid that wrapped up a dreadful .113/.200/.264 April.
The switch-hitting Bell had hits from each side of the plate.
After the game, he pronounced himself comfortable in either batter’s box.
”I’ve always felt really, really comfortable right-handed. I just think that it’s just me being like a right-side dominant person,” he said. “Lefty is the swing that I am constantly trying to I guess keep in check, and the right-handed I go up there, and it just feels more natural.
“So for me when things get going left, that’s when I feel really, really dangerous, because if someone tries to turn me around, I’m ready.”
Bell was swinging righty when he got his second and biggest hit of the day, a three-run double that wrapped up a five-run fourth inning.
The Nats had already scored two on Yan Gomes’ homer with Andrew Stevenson aboard, and they put three more men on with a Trea Turner single and walks to Yadiel Hernández and Kyle Schwarber.
Bell found himself in an 0-2 hole after a called strike and a missed swing on a cutter from former Nat Ross Detwiler. But the Marlins’ southpaw left a 93-mph fastball up in the strike zone, and the switch-hitting Bell took it the other way, lining it to right, where it hit the grass and rolled to the wall before Miami right fielder Garrett Cooper could pick it up.
“It feels like, honestly, it feels like I can slow things down,” said Bell of the feeling when he’s comfortable and getting locked in at the plate.
“It feels like no matter what fastball he throws, no matter what zone it is, I can hit it off the barrel, I can hit it on a line somewhere.”
Bell was swinging lefty when he took advantage of his first opportunity with the bases loaded, driving in a run off Marlins’ starter Paul Campbell.
Josh Harrison singled with one out, Yadiel Hernández singled for a hit in his fifth straight game, and Schwarber was hit by a pitch.
Bell pounced early in the count, jumping on a 91-mph, first-pitch fastball over the inside half of the plate and belt-high for Bell on the lefty side of the plate. The line drive got down in front of Cooper, bringing in Harrison from third.
Bell said he’s been putting the barrel on the ball.
“I feel really good lefty right now as well. I feel like any time that I’m barreling balls up to the outfield I’m in a good place. So I’ll just try to stay right there.”
The win was the third in a row and the sixth in the last ten for the NL East’s second-place team.
“I feel like we’re constantly giving ourselves a chance to win. And that’s the most important thing,” Bell added. “We’re an offense that can put up 7-8 runs against any starter, so we’re in a good place.”