In the middle of the 2007 season, Andrew Johnston was one of two Modesto Nuts' players named to the California League All-Star Team.
Barring a sudden demise, Johnston is well on his way toward a repeat appearance in that game. He earned his league-leading 10th save in as many chances Wednesday night, striking out the side in the ninth inning as the Nuts edged San Jose 4-3 at John Thurman Field.
Esmil Rogers limited the Giants to two runs over seven innings, but a third run off Will Harris in the eighth left Johnston without wriggle room in the ninth.
It's exactly the situation Johnston wants. The 6-foot, 5-inch righty from the University of Missouri has yet to allow an earned run this season in 19 innings of work. Johnston knows he'll be saddled with an ERA at some point this season, but that's not his primary concern.
"As long as we get the win and I get the save it won't matter if I give up a run," Johnston said. "I know I'll have an ERA eventually, but as long as we keep winning games I'll take it."
And as far as the All-Star Game is concerned, Johnston is similarly unconcerned. Yes, it's a rarity for a player to make the squad in back-to-back years, and it's for a simple reason -- All-Stars in Class-A one season generally are playing in Double-A the next.
But after making the squad in 2007, Johnston struggled mightily in the second half. He lost his touch, then his confidence, then the closer's role.
"Usually you don't want to be in the same league for two years, but it would be an honor to play in that game again," Johnston said. "I'm not worried about that. I just want to play, do my job and get a call-up to the next level.
"The last couple months of last season were a struggle for me on and off the field. I spent the whole off-season trying to get back to where I was in that first half of the season."
The Nuts never trailed in getting their fourth home victory over San Jose in as many tries this season. In the first, Mike Paulk reached on a fielder's choice and scored on Victor Ferrante's double to right-center -- the first of his three hits.
Ferrante drove home Daniel Mayora with a single in the third for a 2-0 lead, then the Giants got to Rogers for a run in the fourth on a leadoff double and two ground balls.
But the Nuts struck right back with two runs in the bottom of the inning, with Jason Van Kooten doubling home Jay Cox and Mayora plating the second with a sacrifice fly for a 4-1 lead that the Nuts would need.
"It was a good team feel tonight in the way that everybody was vested in the game," said Nuts' manager Jerry Weinstein. "We talk a lot about that and how we can get energy from each other. It helps when your starting pitcher goes out and pitches like that."
Brian VanderBeek can be reached at email@example.com or 578-2300.