Before the eighth inning of Friday night's Noche de Beisbol, the Modesto Nuts' annual tribute to the Latino community, Nelson Robledo and several teammates addressed the crowd in Spanish in a prerecorded scoreboard message.
But when Robledo stepped to the plate in the ninth inning, he delivered a message that transcended all languages.
His two-out, two-strike single to right allowed Geoff Strickland to stroll home from third base with the winning run in Modesto's 3-2 victory over San Jose.
"In my first three at-bats it didn't feel like I was trusting myself," Robledo said. "In my last at-bat, I felt comfortable with myself, I let the ball come to me, and I hit it."
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The Nuts' victory, on the heels of Thursday night's ugly blowout loss to the Giants, put Modesto in position to claim the four-game series with a victory in tonight's finale.
Victor Ferrante led off the bottom of the ninth with a two-strike, off-field single against reliever Dan Griffin (1-3) and was replaced by pinch-runner Strickland. Michael McKenry followed with a sacrifice bunt, and Strickland stole third as Matt Repec was striking out. The Giants walked Jay Cox intentionally to get to Robledo, setting up a righty vs. righty matchup, and it appeared to pay off when Griffin quickly got ahead in the count.
But on the 1-2 pitch, Griffin left a fastball over the plate, and Robledo poked the ball to right field, raising his right arm in triumph as the crowd of 4,084 cheered.
Prior to Robledo's heroics, the fourth sellout gathering of the season was treated to a matchup featuring great pitching and errorless defense.
San Jose starter Ben Snyder, who leads the California League with a 1.87 ERA, allowed two runs in six innings, and both came in the second inning. He walked Ferrante, who moved to third when Repec doubled to left. Cox followed with a two-run double to right, his fourth double in the last three games.
Modesto starter Aneury Rodriguez was equal to the task, allowing five hits and a walk and single runs in the first and fifth innings.
Both had no-decisions to show for their efforts, and the relievers took over.
Andy Graham hurled two perfect innings for the Nuts before giving way to Will Harris (1-0), who struck out two of the three batters he faced in the ninth to get the win. Griffin was trying to close out his third inning of relief when Robledo poked the game-winner.
"I spoke with Rodriguez very early today about what we wanted to do, and with Graham and Harris I tried to do the same things I did with Rodriguez, and we did," said Robledo, who got a rare start behind the plate.
With McKenry getting the bulk of the action at catcher, Robledo's opportunities to be the hero have been few. Entering Friday's game he had only 61 at-bats and was hitting .148. Last year, as the backup catcher to Neil Wilson, Robledo -- a 23-year-old Panamanian -- hit a career-high .278 in 53 games.
But even in those limited chances, Robledo always has had the knack for delivering the two-strike hit, more often than not to the opposite field.
"I don't know why I do better with two strikes," Robledo said. "Maybe it's because I'm just trying to see the ball and hit it."