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All the Modesto Nuts needed was the beginning of the California League's second half. Since then, they're 6-0, a streak extended Tuesday night by their 6-2 victory over first-half North Division champion San Jose at Municipal Stadium.
Three Modesto pitchers combined to throw a no-hitter as the Nuts defeated the San Jose Giants 2-0 on Monday night.
As two-time Olympic gold medalist Erin Cafaro was at the ballpark to throw out the first pitch, another champion - former Bulls' GM Jerry Krause - was in town as a special scout for the Diamondbacks.
All you need to know to judge the second half offensive progress of the Modesto Nuts is this: In Saturday's 10-3 victory over Visalia, the Nuts got their leadoff hitter aboard four times. On each occasion, he eventually scored.
Modesto Nuts first baseman Jordan Ribera was a freshman on Fresno State's College World Series championship team in 2008.
So here's another sign that the Modesto Nuts have improved to start the second half. After spending the first 70 games finding ugly ways to lose, on Friday night the Nuts prevailed in as ugly a baseball contest as has graced Thurman Field in years.
Corey Dickerson, who opened the 2012 season as Modesto's starting right fielder, was added to the Colorado Rockies' roster on Friday.
For the majority of the Modesto Nuts' players, the All-Star break was a chance to get completely away from the game for two days. Some went fishing, some went sightseeing. Ben Alsup all the way home to Ruston, La., to sit on his sofa. After six weeks without a win, that was Alsup's way to recharge his batteries, and he followed the rest by holding Visalia to two hits over six innings on Thursday as the Nuts grabbed a 6-1 victory.
The 2013 Modesto Nuts stormed into April with the confidence of a champion. Seventy games later, having posted the worst first-half record in the nine-year history of the affiliation, the players who made up the core of the 2012 South Atlantic League champion Asheville Tourists still are adjusting to the caliber of play in the California League.
The Modesto Nuts are winning in the stands, despite the team's poor play in the field. The Nuts posted a 32-38 first-half record thats the worst in Modesto since the 2003 Modesto As posted the same mark. But that 2003 team drew 148,486 fans that season, the second-highest total in history of the franchise to that point.
After five fruitless trips to the plate, San Jose's Brock Bond finally delivered.
The Modesto Nuts looked every bit like a team ready for a three-day break on Sunday, but before packing their bags the Nuts had a bit of historic business to address. While dropping a lackluster 12-3 decision to the last-place Bakersfield Blaze at John Thurman Field, the Nuts gave up two homers to Juan Silverio while striking out six times.
It's a challenge to put the first-half accomplishments of Dan Winkler into any kind of accurate perspective.
A few notes to finish the first half of the California League season: