Modesto Nuts pound Visalia Rawhide at John Thurman Field

bvanderbeek@modbee.comJune 22, 2013 

Elias Funez/efunez@modbee.com Modesto Nuts' second baseman #7 Taylor Featherston makes the throw to first base ousting Bakersfield batter #9 Joe Terry during the Nuts' 6-3 win over the Blaze Sunday (05-05-13) at John Thurman Field.

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  • 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.
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    E-mail: bvanderbeek@modbee.com

All you need to know to judge the second half offensive progress of the Modesto Nuts is this:

In Saturday's 10-3 victory over Visalia, the Nuts got their leadoff hitter aboard four times. On each occasion, he eventually scored.

There was very little spectacular to raise the cheers of the 4,342 fans — the second consecutive sellout at John Thurman Field — but there was a lot of very good situational hitting by the Nuts.

Or, the kind of at-bats that they so sorely lacked in the first half of the season.

"It's coming around and it's a contagious kind of thing," said second baseman Taylor Featherston, who drove in four runs with a sacrifice fly, a two-run triple and a single.

"The at-bats we were having in the first part of the year, we worked through that. It's a long season and we're in the second half where we can start things fresh with guys coming into games relaxed. It's a lot more fun when you're winning ballgames."

The Nuts, by winning the first three games of this four-game series against the Rawhide, are in position to equal their longest winning streak of the season when the set concludes tonight. More than that, Modesto is doing it with offense, scoring 25 runs in the three games, including back-to-back double-figure outputs for the first time this season.

And according to Featherston, it all comes down to one very simple philosophy at the plate — one stressed by manager Lenn Sakata that pushes team offense over individual heroism, otherwise known as "moving the line."

"You can't put a finger on it or everybody would be doing it," Featherston said. "One through nine are getting good at-bats.

"Lenny tells us all the time to not worry about being The Guy, but just be the guy who gets the next guy to the plate any way you can do it. That creates the long inning and allows you to get into the bullpen. That's been effective the last three games."

The situational hitting began right away, when Trevor Story led off the game with a double, was bunted to second by David Kandilas and scored on Featherston's sacrifice fly.

"Great baseball right there," said Featherston, one of many Nuts whose averages are creeping skyward. He's now hitting .291.

"Trev got the double, Kandi got the great bunt to move him to third and I got a good pitch, got the sac fly and got the game going."

It went that way all night for the Nuts, who combined 11 hits — seven for extra bases — with 10 more walks issued by Visalia following Friday's nine-walk effort.

It made the personal batting lines of several players quite strange. Harold Riggins reached base five times on two doubles and three walks. Ryan Casteel also walked three times. Eight players had hits, eight scored runs and six had RBIs.

The good play also extended to the field, where right fielder Jared Simon gunned down Visalia's potential go-ahead run at the plate in the fourth inning. It kept the score 2-2, then the Nuts took control by scoring three times in the bottom of the fourth — two on Featherston's triple.

The support made a winner of Modesto starter Tyler Gagnon (6-5). He needed 91 pitches to get through five innings, but recorded seven strikeouts to work out of three tight situations.

The outcome no longer was in doubt when the Nuts scored three runs in the eighth — two on Simon's third home run of the season — but it indicated how solid Modesto's plate approach has been to start the second half.

So far, through 24 second-half offensive innings, the Nuts have been retired in order only four times.

That's moving the line.

"When you're going bad, you start letting your at-bats trickle to the next day, and a couple bad at-bats quickly become a bad homestand," Featherston said.

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