Josh Bell went 1 for 4 with a homer (just his second from the right side this season) on a 99 MPH 2-2 sinker from Philadelphia Phillies’ lefty José Alvarado on Saturday afternoon. But it was an error at first base (his first this season) that the 28-year-old was still mulling over as he spoke with reporters on a Zoom call after what ended up a 5-2 loss in Citizens Bank Park.
The error, on a Jean Segura grounder to first, gave the Phillies their first baserunner against Washington Nationals’ starter Joe Ross, who had retired the first ten batters he faced to that point, and a HBP, an RBI single, and a three-run home run followed, as things got away from Ross, who then settled back in and gave the club two more innings.
“Obviously, you want to make errors when you’re up 15 runs,” Bell said after the game. “I knew I was probably going to make an error at one point or another, but it was just tough watching what unfolded and knowing what Joe had going there before the error, it definitely stunk. I’m at first base like, ‘Please, ground ball double play right here. Ground ball double play.’ It didn’t work out. It was just tough luck, but thankful for another baseball game tomorrow.”
Bell had clearly given the play a lot of thought, and another look, because he had a detailed explanation as far as what he did wrong.
“[Segura] stayed inside the ball really well, he had that slice. The ball just kind of ate me up, but looking back at it, it’s just footwork,” he said.
“I made a drop step with my right foot and I had a split second there to open back up with my left foot and I didn’t. And that’s what cost me right there. So looking forward to the future it’s just keeping the feet moving there and try to keep the ball in front of me as best I can. Just to give myself a chance to make that play, but it just didn’t work out.”
It didn’t work out for the Nationals either, as the club once again struggled to produce at the plate, collecting just four hits total and going 0 for 8 with runners in scoring position and 10 left on base in the loss.
Bell, who finished the day with a .216/.275/.418 line, seven doubles, and eight home runs in 45 games and 167 PAs this season (though he has picked it up, with a .269/.321/.490 line in 31 games and 112 PAs since May 1st), shouldered a lot of blame for what’s not working with the Nationals’ offense as a whole right now.
“I just feel like hitting is contagious,” Bell said. “I know that I’m not a low .200 hitter. I think that if I can get going myself, [Juan] Soto is going to see better pitches, and you’ve seen what happens when he sees good pitches to hit. There’s going to be more runners on base. I would love to be on second base all the time for [Kyle] Schwarber. I think it’s an awesome at bat to have — I’m leading off an inning, I get that double and then our offense can work from there but I just think — especially with me being in the middle of the lineup, if I perform better we’re going to score runs. So, that’s what it’s going to boil down to and I’m ready for that challenge.”
Nationals’ skipper Davey Martinez told reporters before the series finale with the Phillies on Sunday that he didn’t want his players taking it all on themselves and pressing to try to get things going.
“I think [Bell] just wants to help the team win, you know ... and I know yesterday was a frustrating day for him, but we got to realize that yesterday was his first error all year,” Martinez said.
“So he’s been really, really amazing over there, and he has picked it up, but when a team is not scoring runs, everybody tends to want to do more, and I keep telling them, I said, ‘Hey, don’t try to be the guy, just be a guy, and do what you can do, the rest of the team has to do what they do. So, just everybody just be yourselves, you guys are all good players, you’re all good hitters, and just when we start getting on a roll, good things are going to happen, but the minute you start thinking about you have to do more, sometimes more is less,’ so I don’t want him to really feel like he has to do more, just continue to get good at bats and when he gets a pitch to hit I just want him to go out there and take a good swing at it and hit it hard.”
Yes, Bell and Schwarber (.229/.318/.429, eight doubles, nine HRs in 47 G, 198 PAs after an 0 for 3, BB on Saturday) were brought in to provide pop and protection for Soto in the middle of the lineup, but as Martinez said, it’s not on one or two players, but the lineup as a whole to get things going.
“Everybody has got to do their job,” he said. “We get guys on base, just try to hit the ball hard, put the ball in play, and get on base for the next guy. We always talk about whatever, if the guy pitches around you, accept your walks, and the next guy has got to do his job. I don’t want these guys to think they all got to go up there when they get a guy on base and be that guy, be the guy. Just like I said, be a guy. I try to explain to them that when guys are on base the pressure is on the pitcher. So relax and just try to hit the ball hard. I mean, you’re all here because you guys can hit and you guys know how to play the game, so just relax and just remember the pressure is on the pitcher and just try to get a good pitch.”
Bell got a good, but tough, pitch late in the game, when he hit Alvarado’s 99 MPH heater, connecting for just the second home run off the lefty this season, and the first by a right-handed hitter, and he said the error was definitely on his mind while he was at the plate.
“Obviously you want to win the game,” Bell said. “I think that as the game goes on you’re just trying to fight for opportunities to score runs and get back into that game. And, yes, it’s in the back of I think anybody’s mind, when you make an error, especially a costly one like that, you really want to win the game at the end of the day. It’s just so tough.”
“But it didn’t work out for us and it definitely stunk, but hopefully I can turn the page and get us back on the right track tomorrow.”
Bell went 1 for 4 with a walk and two Ks on Sunday in the Nationals’ 12-6 loss in the finale with the Phillies.