Nuts appear to battle fatigue in addition to Storm in 6-2 loss

bvanderbeek@modbee.comJune 5, 2014 

In the last two years, we’ve seen the lights go out at a Super Bowl and air conditioning fail during the NBA Finals.

The minor league baseball equivalent of a power failure came into play Thursday night at John Thurman Field, but it had nothing to do with illumination or heat.

No, the Modesto Nuts flat-out ran out of gas in a 6-2 loss to Lake Elsinore.

And unlike what happened at the Superdome or at San Antonio’s AT&T Center, this was a power failure that not only was predictable, but you could see it coming.

On top of the miserable season the Nuts are enduring, they’re at the tail end of a scheduling quirk that by rule would not be allowed in major league baseball.

This was Modesto’s 24th day in a row with a game, and since April 10 the Nuts have had exactly one day off. By the time this final homestand of the first half comes to an end on Monday, the Nuts will have played 49 games in 50 days.

That might not be as impressive a streak as Harry Caray visiting a bar on 288 straight days in 1972, but eventually broadcasters and ballplayers alike have to pay the piper for such excess.

Modesto manager Don Sneddon said he doesn’t believe his team is physically tired, even though the on-field collective body language might say otherwise.

“It could be that you look ahead and see that we have eight games left before the break and you’re trying to get some things straightened out before the break comes on,” Sneddon said.

“Our batting practices are still good and the team is lively and players are coming out for early work. We might look like we’re tired, but I don’t think that’s the case. I think we’re just not swinging very well and we can’t put hits together.”

But the other side of fatigue is mental, and Sneddon isn’t ruling out that part.

“You do need a mental break at times,” he said. “It’s not that they’re tired physically. If you’re not going well and getting beat up, it can be tough mentally, so we do give players days off. But even when we give players days off and take them out of the lineup it’s tough because they’re in the park and you could be used as a pinch-runner or pinch-hitter, so you have stay in the game mentally.”

Like Wednesday, when the Nuts lost after taking a 7-2 lead into the eighth, they were able to grab an early lead.

Rosell Herrera slapped a two-out, two-run single in the first to score Chris O’Dowd and Pat Valaika for a 2-0 lead.

Lake Elsinore, three games behind Lancaster for the South Division first-half title, came right back with two runs in the second and another in the third, which was enough to pin a second consecutive loss on starter Ryan Kulik (2-2.)

Kulik again was effective, but ended up allowing four runs on seven hits while getting the Nuts into the seventh inning. The Modesto bullpen again faltered as the Storm put the game away with two runs in the eighth.

So here’s another piece of evidence that points toward fatigue. On Wednesday, after taking a 7-2 lead, the Nuts had two hits over the final seven innings. In this latest loss, they had one hit over the final five innings.

“That’s a recent pattern of ours, and if somebody could figure that out I wish they’d let me know,” Sneddon said. “Because the first person to figure out why that happens will be rich and can retire to their McMansion and sip lemonade.”

Now that sounds relaxing – both physically and mentally.

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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