There are two things you can etch in stone when Brandon Hynick is on the mound for the Modesto Nuts.
One, you're going to see an aggressive pitcher who battles his way through every hitter, no matter the command he has in the outing. Two, Neil Wilson will be behind the plate, making things as easy as possible for the ace of the California League.
In Saturday night's 6-2 victory over the Stockton Ports, Wilson was more than a receiver. He also was a giver, lining two singles and a home run, while Hynick allowed no earned runs over seven innings to get the win in front of 3,812 at John Thurman Field.
"Neil had three very professional at-bats to start the game," Nuts manager Jerry Weinstein said. "Those were as good as any you'll see. Plus, he's the guy who has caught Hynick's wins, so he gets at least half the credit."
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Since recovering from a broken thumb, Wilson has been behind the plate every time Hynick (11-2) has been on the mound. It's not Colorado's policy to foster specific pitcher-catcher relationships in the minor leagues, but the two have worked so well together that there would be no valid reason to make a split.
"I think that's at least eight straight starts I've thrown to Neil, but I have no right to ask for who I want to throw to," said Hynick, laughing at the suggestion. "Neil's real easy to throw to. He knows how I pitch, so it's easy to hit his target and that's one less thing I have to worry about."
And yes, this is a mutual admiration society at work.
"It's easy work just sitting back there when Brandon's pitching," Wilson said. "You don't have to worry about wild pitches or anything like that. You just set your glove up and let him work.
"He didn't have his normal stuff the first inning, but then he just competed and showed why he's the best pitcher out there."
Hynick allowed a double and a single to open the game, but got out of the jam with a pop-up and a double play.
"The key was the first inning when Hynick pitched out of it," Weinstein said. "(Third baseman Nick) Haley stayed with a ball that had a lot of topspin, then E.Y. (Eric Young Jr.) makes a great turn under pressure and Jeff Kindel makes a great tag. The game changes drastically if that play isn't made."
Wilson got the Modesto offense going in the second inning. He led off with a single to right, took second on Kindel's single and sprinted home on Lino Garcia's two-out single to left.
One inning later, Wilson struck again with a single to right, this time with two outs. Kindel walked and Daniel Carte delivered a single to left for a 2-0 lead with Wilson chugging home from second base.
But in the fifth inning, Wilson was able to run the bases at a more leisurely pace, picking on an inside fastball from Ports starter Brad Davis (3-4) and drilling it on a low line drive that cleared the wall in left-center.
Hynick moved into a tie for the league lead in wins with another seemingly effortless cruise. He allowed two hits to start the game, then retired 17 of the next 18 batters he faced to take a 3-0 lead into the seventh.
The Ports scratched out an unearned run when Frank Martinez reached on a fielding error by Young to start the inning. Martinez eventually scored when David Castillo slapped a two-out single to left.
But Modesto got back that run with loan shark interest in the bottom of the inning, with Chris Nelson, Kindel and Carte driving in runs off reliever Luis Ramirez for a 6-1 Nuts' lead.
Bee staff writer Brian VanderBeek can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 578-2300.