Bell holding his own in outfield, Soto chasing another batting title

Ryan Zimmerman produced the most memorable hit of Tuesday night’s 8-2 win over the Marlins when he launched a fastball from Jesús Luzardo 442 feet to right-center field, into the second deck at Nationals Park. But Zimmerman’s presence in the lineup was made possible in part by Josh Bell’s ability to remain in the lineup himself while moving out to left field for the night.

It was the fourth game Bell has started in the outfield this season, and he may be back there today when the Nationals face another left-hander in Miami’s Trevor Rogers, again opening the door for Zimmerman to start at first base.

To date, Bell has looked perfectly fine in the outfield, even if he hasn’t been seriously tested yet. He caught the one fly ball hit in his direction Tuesday night. Otherwise, it was a fairly quiet night in the field for the big slugger.

The Nats are confident, though, that Bell can handle it, even if he has a more active game in the outfield at some point.

“Obviously, we feel confident enough with his defensive ability out there to throw this lineup out there and have Zimmerman at first base,” bench coach Tim Bogar, who filled in for manager Davey Martinez, said in his pregame Zoom session with reporters. “If you’ve learned anything about Josh Bell this year, it’s that he works really hard. He’s very educated, very diligent about what he does and how he thinks about things. Going out there with (outfield coach Bob Henley) and doing his drills, it’s just a reminder for him. But he’s dedicated to it. We’re kind of excited to see him out there tonight, and maybe tomorrow.”

Bell also contributed at the plate in Tuesday’s win, despite not recording a hit. He drew two walks, one of them with the bases loaded.

Thumbnail image for Soto-HR-Swing-White-Sidebar.jpg* Juan Soto had yet another Juan Soto kind of game, going 3-for-4 with an RBI and an intentional walk. This was the 20th time he has reached base four times in a game this season, tops in the majors and most in a while for anyone.

The last big leaguer to reach base four times in 20 games was Mookie Betts in 2018 with the Red Sox. And Soto still has 17 more games to add to his total.

This performance raised Soto’s on-base percentage to .457, easily best in the majors. It also raised his batting average to .313 and sets up the possibility of a dramatic race to the finish line to see who wins the National League batting title.

At the moment, the NL leader in batting average is none other than Trea Turner, who carries a .318 mark into play today. Behind the former National is Nick Castellanos at .314, then Soto at .313. It’s not out of the question Soto could make a late charge and overtake either Turner or Castellanos.

It’s also worth remembering Soto won the NL batting title during the shortened 2020 season with a stout .351 average in only 47 games played.

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