Modesto Nuts' bats silent in loss to San Jose Giants

Manage just three hits, strike out 14 times

bvanderbeek@modbee.comJune 3, 2013 

  • ABOUT THE REPORTER
    alternate textBrian VanderBeek
    Title: Staff writer
    Coverage areas: Sports, including preps, colleges and the Modesto Nuts
    Bio: Brian VanderBeek joined The Bee in 1996 after previously working at The Home News-Tribune and The Star-Ledger in New Jersey, the (Dover) Delaware State News and the Hanford Sentinel. He is a graduate of Ripon High, Modesto Junior College and holds a degree in journalism from Fresno State.
    Recent stories written by Brian
    On Twitter: @modestobeek
    E-mail: bvanderbeek@modbee.com

As far as the first half title chase is concerned, the Modesto Nuts are done. They've been lapped by the leaders.

But then, they've never really been a part of the race, so with only 13 games left in the half, that's hardly news.

What's yet to be determined is whether the Nuts will be capable of making the improvements necessary to be a factor in the second half of the season, because as much as fans would like to see progress, too many efforts like Monday's 5-0 loss to San Jose tend to blur the vision.

Most of the impressive Monday night gathering of 2,418 sat silently as the Nuts collected only three hits — two by Niko Gallego — and struck out 14 times against four Giants' pitchers.

It's been the M.O. followed all season by this light-hitting, light-contact group, whose strikeout total of 580 this season leads the California League by more than 60 over the next whiff-worthy group.

"How do you fix it when the pitchers are throwing the ball by you?" said manager Lenn Sakata. "There's no fix for that. We're not swinging at balls in the dirt, we're just getting it thrown by us. We're not getting it done at this point."

And the more the offense fails, the tighter the hitters seem to get. That's the classic pattern for a downward spiral that only can be reversed when a small amount of success becomes contagious.

"It could be that we're trying too hard," said shortstop Trevor Story. "Some guys may be pressing a little bit, and I may be pressing as part of that.

"It's frustrating to know the talent we have and not see us win as much as we need to. We just need to relax and play baseball like we know how to."

Modesto didn't get a runner to second base until the sixth inning off Giants' starter Jason Forjet (2-0). The lanky righty has pitched well for San Jose in three starts, but the reality is that he probably doesn't yet belong at this level.

Forjet, a 31st-round pick in the 2012 draft, was slated to play with one of San Francisco's short-season teams that start later this month, but injuries to the San Jose rotation pressed him into emergency service.

It didn't stop him from shutting down the Nuts' lineup with ease, recording eight strikeouts over two innings while allowing only the two hits to Gallego.

Modesto starter Ben Alsup (3-6,) deserved better. He allowed a long solo homer to Ben Williamson in the second, then was done-in by his defense in the fourth.

Angel Villalona led off with a single for the first of his three hits, but three errors followed as San Jose notched two unearned runs. The Giants added another in the fifth, with the run scoring when the Nuts failed to turn an inning-ending double play.

The 4-0 lead might as well been three times that margin, because the Nuts were never in position to threaten. Not once did Modesto get a leadoff hitter aboard.

"The lack of offense has plagued us all year, to the point where we need to play almost perfectly to stay in the game," Sakata said. "In a league where we should hit, we're failing to even put the ball in play."

It's all up to the players, most of whom are experiencing extended failure on the field for the first time in their young careers.

How they deal with it will determine whether the Nuts will be ready to harvest a run at a playoff berth in the season's second half.

"I know we have the capability and talent to compete and win in this league," Story said. "It's a matter of putting it together — each and every person — having good at-bats.

"We're not happy about it, but we have to shop up the next day and work at it and just trust that things will come around."

Brian VanderBeek can be reached at (209) 578-2150 or follow him on Twitter, @modestobeek

Three years and a murder investigation later, Angel Villalona is back in the California League. Read Brian VanderBeek's blog at modbee.com/blogs

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