Josh Bell would probably like to memory-hole the first month of the 2021 campaign, which saw the 28-year-old slugger post a .113/.200/.264 line with two doubles and two homers in 15 games and 60 plate appearances. Bell’s bounced back nicely, however, posting a solid .277/.319/.477 line with four doubles and three home runs in 18 games and 69 PAs in May.
Bell has hits in eight of the last 10 games going into the series opener with the Cincinnati Reds tonight in the nation’s capital, coming off a 2 for 4 day in Sunday’s 6-5 win over the Baltimore Orioles, in which one of the two hits was an opposite field single, which Davey Martinez, the Nationals’ skipper, said was another good sign.
“He’s got some length in the zone now, he’s getting ready early,” Martinez said after the win in the series finale with the O’s.
“He’s starting to see the pitches a lot better, so that’s always a good sign when he can hit the ball the other way as hard as he did. He’s swinging the bat well now left-handed.
“I mean, he really is. That’s good for us, that’s good for him.
“Like I said before, when he’s hitting and [Kyle] Schwarber’s hitting good things can happen in our lineup.”
Scwharber has posted a .257/.389/.554 line so far in May, with four doubles and six homers in 20 games and 90 PAs, after he too got off to a slow start in April with a .206/.254/.365 line, four doubles, and two home runs to start his first season in D.C.
Schwarber went 1 for 3 with a home run in the series finale with the O’s, helping the club to rally from an early deficit for the second straight game, which is something that Martinez is hoping they don’t have to keep doing.
“I really hope we stop that, really. But hey, it’s a testament to our guys, they play hard,” the fourth-year skipper said.
“We fall behind and come back and they continue to play hard till that last out. I’m proud of these guys, it was a good weekend, we ended up sweeping the Orioles, so let’s come back Tuesday, we got another opponent that’s doing well, so let’s get ready for Tuesday.”
The Nationals combined to go 14 for 39 (.359 AVG) with runners in scoring position during the series with the O’s, which (you might have to put on Orioles’ pitching, but) is a positive sign.
“We always talk about it and we told them in those situations we’ve just got to move the baseball,” Martinez said.
“Nothing happens when, like I said, when you strike out. Just try to move the baseball, good things happen, and they’ve been doing that, and they’ve been hitting the ball. So, use the whole field. We talk a lot about that. When you’ve got a guy on base, just use the whole field, we’re not looking necessarily for a home run, we’re just looking for you to make good, solid contact, and you see that that worked these last three days, so we need to keep that going.”
Will they keep it going against the Cincinnati Reds this week?
HERE’S THE NATIONALS’ LINEUP FOR THE SERIES OPENER WITH THE REDS: