MODESTO — So here's another sign that the Modesto Nuts have improved to start the second half.
After spending the first 70 games finding ugly ways to lose, on Friday night the Nuts prevailed in as ugly a baseball contest as has graced Thurman Field in years.
Modesto needed only seven hits to reach double digits in a 10-6 victory over Visalia, but the Rawhide made things easy on the home team by committing three errors, hitting three batters and walking nine.
Yes, it was a giveaway night for the Nuts in front of 4,124 fans the eighth sellout of the season only this time the home team was on the receiving end of the transaction.
Ryan Casteel continued his power surge by slamming his team-leading 15th homer of the season, which gave Modesto a 7-1 lead in the fourth inning.
But the overall sloppiness began long before Casteel's blast sailed over the visitors' clubhouse in left field.
The Nuts took a 2-0 lead in the first inning when Brian Humphries reached on a bunt single and Taylor Featherston was hit by a pitch.
Casteel followed with a double-play grounder to third base that was whiffed on by Gerson Montilla, allowing Humphries to score. When the ball came back to the infield, Montilla tried to get Casteel running to second base, but his throw sailed into right field for his second error on the play.
Humphries had a sacrifice fly and Featherston added an RBI single in the second for a 4-0 lead, and Casteel's homer capped a three-run fourth inning.
All seven runs were charged to Visalia starter Conrad Flynn (4-3), who was ejected after plunking Jared Simon with a pitch just moments after Casteel finished rounding the bases.
The game could have sailed along to conclusion after Modesto opened the six-run lead, but Eddie Butler ran into his first spot of trouble in four June starts.
Butler (3-1) continues to face a five-inning limit each time he takes the mound for Modesto, but this time out he almost didn't get to 15 outs.
He sailed through the first three innings, whiffing five Visalia batters while not allowing a hit.
The Rawhide got to him for a run on two hits in the fourth, and had him on the ropes in the fifth when they scored three runs, only one of which was earned.
Still, Butler needed 94 pitches to get through the fifth, which means he would have not seen the sixth inning even without a limit, and he left with a 7-4 lead.
Geoff Parker worked an inning and was pulled after the Rawhide put the first two runners aboard in the seventh.
That's when Kenny Roberts entered and put his mark on the game. The lefty from Tennessee restored order with two strong innings and was the only one of the four pitchers Modesto used not to allow a run.
The Nuts eventually pulled away with a run in the seventh on an error and three walks, and two more walks in the eighth set up a two-run double by Harold Riggins that pushed Modesto into double figures.
The prettiest part of the evening? Perhaps it was the collection of classic cars that graced the ballpark promenade.
Alas, even one of those managed to get dented by a foul ball.
Brian VanderBeek can be reached at (209) 578-2150 or follow him on Twitter, @modestobeek
Corey Dickerson, who opened the 2012 season in Modesto's outfield, was promoted to the big league club on Friday. Read Brian VanderBeek's blog at modbee.com/blogs