Major League Baseball

Pirates’ Bell hopes to avoid June swoon vs. Brewers

BREWERS (32-26) AT PIRATES (28-28)
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The (relative) bad news for Josh Bell of the Pittsburgh Pirates is that May is over. That might also be good news for the visiting Milwaukee Brewers.

In the Pirates’ 9-4 win over the Brewers on Friday, Bell wrapped up the month with two singles, extending his single-month franchise record to 94 total bases.

During May, he also tied a club record for any one month with 24 extra-base hits.

“It was a lot of fun,” Bell told AT&T Sportsnet of his big month. “I was just trying to come ready to play.”

That’s pretty much a given — Bell has started at first base and in the cleanup spot in all 56 Pirates game this season.

He’s likely to be there Saturday when the Pirates and Brewers play the third game of a four-game series. They have split the first two.

Milwaukee right-hander Brandon Woodruff (7-1, 3.22 ERA) is scheduled to face Pittsburgh righty Nick Kingham (1-1, 8.28 ERA).

Woodruff seems to be on a steep upward trajectory. He is 6-0 with a 2.37 ERA over his past eight starts, 5-0 with a 1.42 ERA over his past five starts.

And then came Sunday against Philadelphia. In a 9-1 win, Woodruff retired the first 15 batters he faced, set a career high with 10 strikeouts, tied his career high with eight innings pitched, and allowed just one baserunner — Andrew Knapp, who hit a solo homer.

The only way to top that Saturday would seem to be a perfect game, or at least a no-hitter, but Woodruff wasn’t sweating over either against Philadelphia.

“I threw a no-hitter in high school, but never anything close to a perfect game,” he said. “I didn’t really think much about it. I was just out there trying to make pitches and get outs.

“I think I was just locked in.”

Against Pittsburgh, Woodruff is 0-1 with a 6.00 ERA in three career games, including one start.

The Pirates’ Kingham is getting at least one more shot trying to show he can be a starter in the major leagues. He burst into the big leagues 13 months ago when he retired the first 20 batters and allowed only one hit over seven innings against St. Louis.

Since then, he has split time between the Pirates and Triple-A Indianapolis, and while in the major leagues has fallen into more of a bullpen role, but he has been needed with a string of injuries to starters.

He’s 5-8 with a 5.81 ERA in 18 career starts, 0-1 with an 8.53 ERA in three starts this season.

Most recently, Kingham gave up three runs in 4 2/3 innings Monday in a no-decision at Cincinnati. That might be considered a step in the right direction after he gave up 13 runs and 19 hits in eight innings over his previous two starts.

Going into that start, Kingham reached a decision — he needs to be more aggressive.

“Go right at them. Put the ball in play,” Kingham told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “If I walk you, you’re never going to get out. I’m banking on you swinging at balls out of the (strike) zone.

“I think I’m not putting myself in position to get many swing-and-misses, honestly. I think I’m going 1-0, 2-0 and they’re like, ‘Hey man, the cookie’s coming,’ so they’re looking for a fastball. It’s hard to get swings and misses on a fastball, in fastball counts.”

Kingham is 2-1 with a 7.80 ERA in four games (three starts) in his career against Milwaukee, all last season.

–Field Level Media

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