STOCKTON -- Last year, the Modesto Nuts chose July 1 to break out of their team batting slump, scoring 17 runs in the first game of their second series of the season at Stockton.
Friday marked the opening of the Nuts' second trip through Stockton Ballpark this season, but instead of choosing the occasion to have an offensive feast, the hitting famine continued in a 5-3 loss to the Ports.
Some of the credit has to go to Stockton starter Trevor Cahill (4-0,) who held the Nuts hitless through five innings before exiting following a three-run Modesto sixth. Modesto finished with only five hits.
But on most days through the first 29 games of 2008, it doesn't seem to matter whether the opposing pitcher is a lefty, a righty or throws underhanded behind his back, because the Nuts largely have been incapable of mounting much offense against whomever the opposition puts on the mound.
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"We were 2 for 13 with runners in scoring position, so we did have people out there," said Nuts' manager Jerry Weinstein. "To their credit, they did some good things. We're seeing good pitching, and that affects our day. Tonight was good pitching. Cahill doesn't have a 1.80 ERA because he's lucky."
This was the third time Cahill faced the Nuts this season, and his third win against Modesto. He threw seven scoreless innings on April 6, and allowed one run over five innings five days later.
He breezed through the first five innings this time, allowing only one runner during that span -- a fourth-inning hit batsman who was erased on a double play one pitch later.
The Ports staked Cahill to a 4-0 lead against Keith Weiser (2-3,) collecting seven hits over the first three innings. Stockton would have only one more hit the rest of the way, an eighth-inning solo homer by Chris Carter off David Patton.
Cahill faltered suddenly with one out in the sixth, hitting Nelson Robledo and walking Jason Van Kooten. Anthony Jackson's single to center broke up the no-hitter and the shutout. One out later, Mike Paulk walked to load the bases and Cole Garner punched a single to right field on an 0-2 pitch to slice the gap to 4-3.
"Garner had a great at-bat," Weinstein said. "When their pitchers make mistakes, we do hit them. Not that Garner's hit came on a mistake, it didn't. That was a pitch away and he went with it."
The Nuts had runners in scoring position with less than two outs in each of the final three innings, but came away empty, finishing with 12 strikeouts to give them a league-high 277 this season (9.6 per game.)
If last year is any indication, any day could bring the breakout game that could spark the Nuts to a month of success. They all hope they don't have to wait until July for the offense to start rolling.
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