Aquino gives Nuts’ first quality start of season in loss

bvanderbeek@modbee.comApril 11, 2014 

At this rate, the Modesto Nuts will have treated their fans to every kind of baseball by the time the first homestand is over.

It would be a bonus if they’re able to mix-in a few wins along the way.

Following the walk-off win on opening night, the Nuts and Rancho Cucamonga came back on Friday to stage a pitchers’ duel – the rarest of California League breeds – with the Quakes squeaking out a 3-1 victory.

“We never got into any rhythm at all, and we only had one walk so they didn’t do us any favors,” said Nuts manager Don Sneddon. “We didn’t have a lot of solid swings.”

Modesto managed only four hits – three singles and a double – off three Rancho pitchers. So it was a silent offensive night for both sides, with the starting outing by Jayson Aquino the lone highlight for the home team.

And after the Nuts came off their seven-game road trip with a staff ERA in double digits, what Aquino did was solid encouragement.

The 21-year-old Dominican, the lone lefty on the Modesto staff, was hit hard in his first start, giving up eight earned runs in four innings in Bakersfield, and began his home debut the same way.

The first four Quakes’ batters reached base, and two of them scored to give Rancho Cucamonga a 2-0 lead before much of the second straight sellout crowd of 4,389 had settled in.

But that was all Aquino would allow as he became the first Nuts starter this season to finish six innings and also the first to notch a quality start.

“In the first inning I just forgot about the runners and did what I could to stay focused on the game,” Aquino said through an interpreter, teammate Jose Rivera. “My pitches were up in the first inning and then I was able to stay down after that. I learned from this game how to get things done and now I’m ready for my next start.”

In past seasons, the occasion of a four-hit performance is April by Modesto hitters would be met with a shrug, since offense historically has been slow to arrive for the Nuts. But through eight games, Modesto was hitting .268 as a team, making this output the aberration.

And in this case, credit the arms wearing Dodger Blue. Starter Tom Windle, a lefty who was the Dodgers’ second-round pick last season out of the University of Minnesota, kept Modesto in knots while sailing through six innings, allowing only an unearned run.

That lone tally came in the second, when David Kandilas singled, was sacrificed to second by Derek Jones and scored when Chris O’Dowd’s two-out ground ball to second was booted.

When relievers Dan Coulombe and Owen Jones combined for a perfect three innings, that was that for the Nuts’ first home loss of the season.

“Their lefty did a good job mixing some pitches,” Sneddon said. “I thought we might get him early because he was using a lot of bullets. But he got better as he went along and that first reliever was really good – lights out with a hard breaking ball.”

It’s called giving credit where due, and there was enough to be spread around to both sides, including some tossed Aquino’s way.

“That first inning has been what’s happened to Jayson so far this year, but previously he didn’t settle in afterward,” Sneddon said.

“Now we’re looking at him as another case of our pitchers improving, but we have to get him pitching the first inning like he does the third, fourth and fifth. He did a great job and kept us right in the game.”

Bee staff writer Brian VanderBeek can be reached at bvanderbeek@modbee.com or (209) 578-2150. His blog is at www.modbee.com/brianvanderbeek.

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