With Monday night's 9-2 loss to Rancho Cucamonga, the Modesto Nuts continued a slide that has seen them drop 17 of their last 24 games.
There have been few heroes in that stretch, only guys continuing to work hard and ache for opportunities to show they can perform at this level and above.
And when you're in middle relief, like David Patton and Jonathan George, the hero tag seldom is applied, even if it fits.
Patton entered Monday's game with the bases loaded and nobody out in the fifth inning, the outcome of the game very much in doubt. He allowed only one of the inherited runners to score and went on to throw a strong two innings.
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George followed with two scoreless innings to give the Nuts time to rally, keeping it close before a four-run Quakes ninth inning turned the final score lopsided.
"It's our job to come in and keep the game close, and it doesn't matter whether we're up or down at that point," said George, who was making his 26th appearance. "My job is to come in and get outs."
Patton, appearing in his 30th game, takes pretty much the same approach as George, whether he comes in with the bases loaded — as he did Monday — or with no one aboard.
"You have to take every situation as the same," Patton said. "You have to throw strikes, go after the hitters and don't think about anything else. Your job is to get outs no matter the situation. You can't think about the bases being loaded. You go out there and throw your stuff."
Modesto starter Xavier Cedeno recorded only 12 outs, allowing four runs on seven hits and three walks, so it was up to the bullpen to keep the Nuts a rally away from earning a win. The rally never came, although Modesto did collect nine hits — including two doubles apiece for Justin Nelson and Neil Wilson and two singles for Travis Becktel.
"The bridge guys still get their work, and they're important because if they don't do the job you not only lose the game but you're short in the bullpen," Nuts manager Jerry Weinstein said. "You never know how valuable those bridge guys are. They're critical."
Modesto led 2-1 after a two-run second inning, when Wilson doubled and Nick Haley singled. After Cole Garner was hit by a pitch to load the bases, Nelson Robledo brought home a run with a sacrifice fly and Becktel lined a 1-2 pitch up the middle for an RBI single.
But the Nuts wouldn't score for the rest of the game, despite having runners at second base with no outs on three more occasions.
Rancho Cucamonga starter Robert Mosebach (7-5) pitched out of those jams and allowed two runs and eight hits over 7 2/3 innings, mixing in six strikeouts and no walks.