At the end of this long, long baseball season, the Modesto Nuts will have a selection of games they’ll want to remember and a longer list they’d like to forget.
Sunday’s 9-5 loss to High Desert certainly would fall into the latter category except that there was so much memorable about the contest.
There was Will Swanner collecting a home run and four RBI, and Shane Broyles continuing his two-month run of near-flawless middle relief.
And then there was a blown save so violent as to permanently retire the statistic.
With the Nuts leading 5-4, closer Rayan Gonzalez gave up a triple and a wild pitch within his first seven delieveries to forge a tie, but stayed in for 10 more pitches.
That was long enough to give up a single and a walk, and when Peter Tago was greeted by D.J. Peterson’s 17th homer of the season, the Mavericks had an 8-5 lead.
Tago stayed in to allow two doubles and then hit a batter to end his night before Bruce Kern restored sanity with two strikeouts and a walk.
“Disappointing to say the least,” said Nuts’ manager Don Sneddon. “We battled throughout the game and were there in the ninth with the script the way we wanted it to be.
“We know they can hit, and especially that this is a great fastball-hitting team, and we couldn’t get a curveball over. That was the difference, and they sat dead red on us. When Kern came in and got his breaking ball over, we got out of it.”
It was a stunning explosion by High Desert, with all five runs scoring before Modesto recorded an out, with two pitchers failing to retire any of the batters they faced.
More than that, it was a gut-punch of an end to the four-game series that opened the second half for a team so desperately in need of a reason to forget the first half.
Instead, so much of the same. The Nuts managed only five hits, but worked nine walks off the Mavericks’ pitchers. On the other hand, Modesto struck out 11 times and stranded 12 runners to hand High Desert a 3-1 series victory.
“We had our chances,” Sneddon said. “We had only five hits, but we could have added on instead of sitting on the lead. That plays into the last inning, because we had a one-run lead instead of a three-run cushion.”
The Nuts led 5-2 through four innings, with Trevor Story’s RBI double and Swanner’s single giving them a 2-0 lead in the first.
Jordan Ribera led off the third with a single and trotted home on Swanner’s team-leading seventh home run of the season. Swanner knocked in another run on a fielder’s choice in the fourth, but Modesto left the bases loaded in that inning, as they also did in the second and eighth.
Nuts’ starter Matt Flemer allowed four runs on eight hits over 5 2/3 innings, but was in position for the win because Broyles stifled the Mavs on one hit to take the 5-4 lead into the ninth.
Broyles has been Modesto’s top reliever since the beginning of May, allowing only three earned runs in 27 innings spread over 18 appearances, with 10 walks against 32 strikeouts.
“Our starter battled and Broyles did a great job to keep us right there, and then the pen fell apart,” Sneddon said. “I have no pearls of wisdom for this one.”
But he did offer some good news, and it was in the form of the way baseball is played. The next game never is too far removed, and although the Nuts go on the road for their next seven games, returning home July 1, sometimes there’s salvation on the road for a team that has taken as many lumps as this year’s Nuts.
“This game will humble you right down to the bottom,” Sneddon said. “It will test you all the time. This was a tough loss for us and again we’ll see the character of this club and its ability to come back.”