Nuts come out swinging to open second half

All-around performance led by strong pitching from Alsup

bvanderbeek@modbee.comJune 20, 2013 

— For the majority of the Modesto Nuts' players, the All-Star break was a chance to get completely away from the game for two days.

Some went fishing, some went sightseeing. Ben Alsup all the way home to Ruston, La., to sit on his sofa.

After six weeks without a win, that was Alsup's way to recharge his batteries, and he followed the rest by holding Visalia to two hits over six innings on Thursday as the Nuts grabbed a 6-1 victory.

"I went home for a couple days, hung out with the family and sat on the couch, played with my nephew and had a great time," said Alsup, who played college ball at Louisiana State.

The Nuts, as a team, needed a complete rejuvenation following a listless weekend four-game series loss to last-place Bakersfield.

"That happens," said manager Lenn Sakata. "We didn't pitch well and we were taken out of some games early. Maybe we caught our second wind."

Alsup (4-8) needed to get out of his personal slump. He's been going deep into most of his starts, and with his six innings against the Rawhide he's tied teammate Dan Winkler for the league lead in innings pitched with 83º.

But those deep starts haven't been resulting in victories. Since last winning on May 8, Alsup had gone 0-6 with a 5.62 ERA.

"It's been tough," Alsup said. "Things haven't fallen in place for the team or for me when I've been out there. We just have to grind through it and get us back to where we're supposed to be.

"My main goal tonight was to get everything started off right in the second half. I needed to run out there and pitch and let the guys work behind me, and they did a great job. It was all together a great win."

The Nuts collected nine hits in the six-inning start of Andrew Barbosa (4-4), Visalia's top lefty starter. Of the nine, six went for extra bases, including Ryan Casteel's 14th homer of the season — a solo shot in the third that gave Modesto a 3-1 lead.

Modesto added two more in the fourth when Niko Gallego tripled, Brian Humphries doubled and Taylor Featherston added a sacrifice fly.

In the fifth, Jared Simon's double was followed by a triple from Will Swanner that accounted for the game's final run.

In all, the Nuts displayed the full formula for winning. They got a solid start, had very good situational hitting and played great defense, turning three double plays.

The most important ingredient in that formula was supplied by Alsup.

"He showed more aggressiveness, which was nice," Sakata said.

"He's the one guy I really thought would give us a solid and reliable start every time out this season. I thought we'd always get six or seven innings from him. When he's on with all his pitches, he is that pitcher."

Kraig Sitton came on to work two perfect innings, and Nelson Gonzalez threw a 1-2-3 ninth as the Nuts opened the second half with one of their better all-around performances of the season.

"We were very flat last weekend," Alsup said. "We had some good time off and everybody came back to practice yesterday pumped to be here with a fresh start."

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

In the minors, success on the field has little to do with success in the stands. Read Brian VanderBeek's blog at modbee.com/blogs

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