The Modesto Nuts have been touting their own resiliency all season how they play through the final out, how they're not fazed by early deficits.
But it's nothing but talk until they display it in a do-or-die situation, as they did Thursday night.
Needing to win to extend its season, Modesto twice overcame multiple-run deficits and rode a four-run sixth inning to a 9-8 victory over San Jose at John Thurman Field.
"It's good to see this kind of fight," said Jared Clark, whose three-run double capped a sixth-inning rally that gave the Nuts a 9-7 lead.
"A lot of teams might have given up, especially given San Jose's bullpen. When they get the lead with those guys it's generally difficult to come back."
But Modesto actually had two rallies, both four-run bursts. Tim Smalling's three-run homer in the third helped turn a 4-1 deficit into a 5-4 lead, and Clark's hit had the same effect on the enthusiastic crowd of 1,504.
The victory set up a decisive showdown in this best-of-three mini-series. Tyler Matzek, a California League All-Star who has been up-and-down in the second half, will pitch for Modesto.
San Jose manager Andy Skeels, who has been waiting until the final possible moments to name his starters for this season, did not name a starter but it's likely to be righty Taylor Rogers.
Just the fact that a third game will be played is quite amazing, given the nature of Modesto's dual comebacks.
The sixth-inning rally started when Juan Crousset walked and Dustin Garneau's potential double play grounder up the middle was whiffed by shortstop Joe Panik.
Delta Cleary Jr., followed with a double into the left field corner to score Crousset, but Garneau was out easily at the plate. Sidewinder Phil McCormick entered and walked Rafael Ortega, the only batter he faced, and Brett Tanos singled off Cody Hall to load the bases.
Clark, who had been pitched outside the entire series, got a first-pitch fastball on the inner half of the plate, and he blistered it into the left field corner to clear the bases.
"I wasn't looking for anything," Clark said. "I just wanted to get my foot down and react to the fastball. That's about it."
Modesto still had to find a way to keep San Jose off the board, and Isaiah Froneberger was the person to do the job. The lefty blanked the Giants on one hit over two innings.
"They had a lot of lefties in the lineup, and when they got me up in the seventh I figured I had a chance to go two innings," Froneberger said.
Closer Adam Jorgenson allowed an unearned run in the ninth on an infield error and two-out hit, but stranded the potential tying run at first base.
Nuts starter Josh Mueller had gone 10 straight appearances without allowing more than two runs, and over his last five starts was 4-1 with a 1.82 ERA.
Of course that meant nothing when he stepped to the mound for his first Cal League playoff start, and he retired only four San Jose batters while getting roughed up for four runs on six hits.
Ortega, whose home run accounted for the Nuts' lone score in the 3-1 opening-game loss, rifled a solo shot to right in the bottom of the first to forge a 1-1 tie.
Trailing 4-1, the first comeback started when Ortega singled, stole second and scored on a Tanos single.
After Langfels walked, Smalling lined a fastball over the wall in left for a three-run homer and a 5-4 Modesto lead.
The Modesto goal at that point was to find a pitcher who could keep the Giants off the board. Craig Bennigson gave up two runs in 2ª innings, and Geoff Parker gave up a run on two hits as San Jose took a 7-5 lead into the sixth.
"You have to credit the offense for staying with it," Nuts manager Lenn Sakata said. "They made up the difference after the lackluster pitching early. Ortega's swinging well, Tanos got some hits, Clark had the big double and Smalling had the three-run home run.
"We'll go after them tomorrow and may the best pitching win."