MODESTO — One has to delve deep into Modesto minor league record books to find an opening two months as painful as has been endured by this years Nuts.
Saturday night was a completely different brand of pain, followed by the ultimate joy.
After the Modesto bullpen squandered a five-run lead in the top of the ninth, Sean Dwyer sent the sellout crowd of 4,247 home happy with a two-out, two-run homer that gave the Nuts a dramatic 9-7 victory.
Will Swanner worked a two-out walk against Ports reliever Austin House and threw a first-pitch ball to Dwyer before trying to sneak a 91 MPH past the Modesto left fielder.
Instead Dwyer turned on the pitch and sent it on a line well over the fence in right center for his first home run of the season.
Modesto appeared to be in control after scoring four runs, all after two outs, in the second inning.
With two outs and two aboard, Matt Wessinger and Juan Ciriaco lined RBI singles and David Kandilas drilled a two-run double into the left field corner.
Stockton got two runs during the five innings thrown by Nuts starter Matt Flemer, who gave up six hits and two walks against five strikeouts. But much like Devin Burke in Fridays Modesto victory, he was able to pitch through near-constant trouble, and was aided by two double plays.
The Nuts added a run in the sixth on an RBI triple by Derek Jones, and tacked on two more in the eighth on Matt Wessingers two-out, two-run single.
Theyd need all of that insurance as the Ports, trailing 7-2, put their first six runners on base in the ninth three against Alving Mejias and four against closer Raul Fernandez.
Stockton got two hits and a walk against Mejias to load the bases, and with the tying run in the on-deck circle Fernandez was summoned, asked to record saves in back-to-back nights for the first time this season.
Instead, Fernandez, who had been perfect in seven save chances this season, gave up four straight singles, with Matt Olsons hit scoring two runs to tie the game.
With runners at first and second and still nobody out, Shane Broyles entered for the Nuts and recorded two strikeouts and a pop-out to preserve the tie.
The win was the five in six games for Modesto, which stands alone as the teams best stretch this season. Despite the surge, the Nuts tragic number to be eliminated in the first half California League North Division race with 20 games remaining is any combination of five losses and Bakersfield wins.
It means that the Nuts are playing the first half to improve and to attempt to whittle away their deficit against the other teams in the division in order to make a run at a wild card playoff berth in the second half.
But thats all for June and beyond. Modesto still has three weeks remaining before the mid-year intermission not only to improve but to start easing the pain that has been the first half of the season.