Pitching and hitting continue their failure to merge as Modesto Nuts lose to San Jose

Posted by Brian VanderBeek on June 7, 2014 

Compare the Modesto Nuts to that golfer that, no matter how hard he tries, just can’t ever seem to break 100.

The golfer has hit big drives down the middle, occasionally can rip an iron to the middle of the green and has been known to sink a lengthy putt.

The Nuts know this golfer’s angst. At various points they’ve hit well, and other times pitched well. But seldom have both skills met on the same night, which again was the case Saturday as a 9-3 loss to San Jose dropped Modesto to 21-43.

The 43rd loss, coming in front of an energetic crowd of 3,705, guarantees Modesto will finish the first half with no better than the franchise’s second-worst first-half record since 1957 – the year the California League went to the split season on a permanent basis.

It means the Nuts are scrambling for victories of any kind, and right now they can take some solace in the way they’re hitting the ball. Modesto collected 11 hits in Friday’s walk-off win and followed that with a 12-hit output in Saturday’s loss.

“We have to rely on our pitching and we didn’t get it tonight,” said manager Don Sneddon. “There were a couple calls that didn’t go our way, but we have to be able to overcome things like that.

It seems like every call that goes against us – whether it’s right or wrong – seems to open up a big inning. Sometime we’ll have video replay down here. Not in my lifetime.”

The blow-up inning in this case was a big one – a five-run third inning against Devin Burke (4-3).

Burke was the Nuts best starter in May, going 4-0 in five starts with a 0.95 ERA. So far, June has not been kind.

On Monday he allowed five runs in four innings in what became a 12-3 loss at Stockton, and this second outing was along those lines.

Chuckie Jones homered to center as San Jose sent 10 batters to the plate in the third. Burke’s outing was over after he gave up Ben Turner’s RBI single with two out in the fifth that gave the Giants a 6-0 lead.

“We have to make the pitches when we need to,” Sneddon said. “It always comes down to the guys on the hill. If they have a good night, we have a chance to win. If they don’t then we generally don’t have enough offense to win.”

But Modesto did have the offense. It just didn’t come at the right time. The Nuts collected 12 hits, but never got a leadoff hitter aboard in any inning, and stranded 12.

Modesto had baserunners in each of the first seven innings against San Jose starter Pat Young, finally denting the scoreboard in the seventh.

With one out, singles by Derek Jones and Dean Espy were followed by Kyle Von Tungeln’s RBI double. After Chris O’Dowd struck out, Rosell Herrera walked to load the bases, ending Young’s night after 102 pitches.

Pat Valaika greeted reliever Stephen Johnson with a two-run single that caromed off second base, but Johnson struck out Will Swanner to end the threat.

San Jose answered immediately with two runs to ice the game. Reliever Peter Tago gave up two, two-out RBI hits, including a triple to Jones, who finished a double short of a cycle.

And even in the ninth inning, as if to provide the final tease, the Nuts left the bases loaded.

“We’re not getting hits at the right time and we’ve scrambled with that all year,” Sneddon said. “It’s all about rhythm and timing and taking advantage of those situations.”

Even in baseball, it’s about scrambling for pars.

NUTS NOTES: Swanner was ejected by home plate umpire Kyle McCrady after being called out on what Swanner thought was a checked swing. It was the third ejection of the season for Modesto. Swanner has been tossed twice and Sneddon once.

San Jose wore orange home jerseys on Friday, and it wasn’t in tribute to the practice of its parent club. The Giants entered that game with a five-game win streak – the last three in those tops – and manager Lenn Sakata wasn’t about to jinx the streak by changing colors. After Swanner launched a walk-off homer on Friday, San Jose came out in black tops on Saturday.

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