Modesto falls to Visalia, now off to slowest start in Nuts’ history

bvanderbeek@modbee.comApril 14, 2014 

So maybe this 2-10 start is a good omen for the Modesto Nuts.

Sure, Monday night’s 4-2 loss to the Visalia Rawhide has given the Nuts their worst start in their 10 seasons as a Colorado Rockies’ affiliate, but look at it this way:

The previous worst starting line wheel-spinning to a Nuts’ season was the 2-9 slide in 2012, and all Modesto did that season was reach the California League championship series.

So even on a night when the moon turned blood orange, the clouds over John Thurman Field had at least an historic rumor of silver linings.

And one very real uptick – the continued development of the starting pitching.

But first, the downfall, one now a concern. The Nuts’ hitters are showing the signs of starting to press at the plate.

“We’re right there and we have the feeling like we’re always one hit away,” said Nuts manager Don Sneddon. “Three times tonight we had the runner at third (with less than two outs) and didn’t get him in. We’re at the point where, yes, we are pressing a little bit, just trying to get over the hump.”

The Nuts were very good at setting the table, getting their leadoff hitter on base in seven innings, including three times when the first batter doubled.

But it wasn’t until the eighth inning that Modesto managed to move the runner around, and by that time it trailed 4-0, thanks in part to a two-run homer in the eighth by Visalia’s Rudy Flores.

Chris O’Dowd led off the Nuts’ eighth with a double to right and stayed there as the next two batters whiffed. After O’Dowd stole third, Rosell Herrera drove him home on a infield single and Will Swanner followed with a line drive to right that was misplayed into a triple.

They threatened again in the ninth when Jordan Ribera was hit by a pitch and David Kandilas walked and both moved up on a wild pitch to put the tying run at second base. Rawhide closer Jimmie Sherfy, who ignited the rally, snuffed it with consecutive strikeouts of Derek Jones, O’Dowd and Juan Ciriaco.

Ryan Gibbard didn’t have the best of command, mixing five walks with five strikeouts in five innings, but he did limit Visalia to one run and was done-in by Modesto’s suddenly slumping offense.

The Nuts were stymied through seven innings by Visalia starter Brandon Simmery, a lanky righty the Diamondbacks signed last year as a free agent following his graduation from the University of Michigan.

Simmery pitched around constant trouble, but got through seven scoreless innings, allowing five hits and two walks against five strikeouts.

“Pitching kept us in it, and even though the relief wasn’t great we still had a chance to win it,” Sneddon said. “We have to score runs with outs and we haven’t done that. Our hitting is just out of whack right now.”

Yes, this is an historically bad start, but speaking of history, this is Visalia, and the Nuts have owned the Rawhide at home, compiling a 41-21 record against their North Division rival over the last five regular seasons.

More recent was Visalia’s two-game sweep of Modesto in the first round of the 2013 playoffs, and with this most recent win the Rawhide is 4-0 against the Nuts this season, having outscored Modesto 31-17.

So Visalia has turned it around against Modesto, so why can’t the Nuts turn it around after this start and get back into the North Division race.

Stranger things have happened. Like the moon turning orange.

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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