Modesto Nuts lose to SJ Giants after pitcher departs

Modesto's Butler turns up heat on the mound

ragostini@modbee.comJuly 1, 2013 

Eddie Butler's left arm flails upward, his glove shakes and, amid all that camouflage, his right arm releases a hissing, moving high 90's fastball.

Or, as the Modesto Nuts' generous speed gun once reported during Butler's fifth and final inning of work, 100 mph.

"He always looks good. He's a raw pitcher with stuff as good as anyone I've seen at this level," Nuts manager Lenn Sakata said. "Problem is, he can only go five innings."

Colorado limits Butler, one of its 2012 first-round draft choices, to only five innings. His exit defined San Jose's 5-3 win on a steamy Monday night at Thurman Field because the Giants haven't notched a run against him this season in 16 innings.

"I could have gone another inning, maybe not two," said Butler, who totaled 76 pitches and eight strikeouts. "I would have loved to have the ball in my hand, but what the organization says, goes."

Modesto's Dan Winkler (11-2, 2.02 ERA) has gained his share of attention, but Butler (3-1, 2.77) — who's started eight games since he reported nearly six weeks ago — dazzles with his velocity and movement.

The 6-foot-2 Chesapeake, Va., product protected a 2-0 lead that was gained via unearned runs in the first inning.

San Jose, perhaps inspired by Butler's exit, mounted its comeback against Modesto's depleted bullpen. The catalyst was designated hitter Ricky Oropesa, a 2012 San Jose Giant who returned to the team Monday after a stint at Double-A Richmond.

Oropesa launched a one-hop double off the wall in center and later scored on Jeff Arnold's fielder's choice to close the gap to 2-1 in the seventh. Reliever Nelson Gonzalez (3-5) kept Modesto in front by striking out Travious Relaford, another dropdown from Richmond, with the bases loaded.

But Gonzalez did not fool San Jose in the eighth. Chris Lofton ignited the rally with his triple to the wall in right, his third hit of the night.

After Mac Williamson's game-tying sacrifice fly, Oropesa unloaded a go-ahead home run far over the 370-foot marker and heading toward the trees beyond the wall in right-center.

What further bothered the Nuts, however, were San Jose's two unearned runs in the ninth. Modesto was charged with two throwing errors on one play — an off-target throw to second by shortstop Trevor Story, followed by a wild throw to third by Gonzalez that bounced off San Jose's manager/third base coach Andy Skeels.

The carom off Skeels saved a run, but it was picked up moments later by Brock Bond's two-run single up the middle.

Modesto's offense, explosive during its 9-2 run to start the California League's second half, sputtered until the ninth. Harold Riggins ripped his 13th homer to left and David Kandilas' two-out triple to the wall in center brought Tim Smalling to the plate as the potential tying run.

But Smalling was retired on a nifty game-ending play near the second-base bag by Bond, a candidate to make the Giants' big club during spring training. The game's end underlined the Nuts' 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position, resulting in its failure to extend its early lead.

Smalling went 2 for 5 with a double and a run scored.

• NOTES — There's a strong possibility Santiago Casilla, the San Francisco Giants' reliever soon to come off the disabled list, will make a rehab appearance here tonight. Jose Casilla, Santiago's younger brother, struck out Will Swanner with two on to end the eighth. ...

Nuts second baseman Taylor Featherston took a third strike during the third inning and was ejected by plate umpire Jeff Andrews. Featherston pointed with his bat toward the outside of the plate, where he thought the pitch was, and was quickly banished. ... San Jose leads the season series over Modesto 9-7.

Bee staff writer Ron Agostini can be reached at ragostini@modbee.com or (209) 578-2302. Follow Ron via Twitter @modbeesports

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