Just behind first base, a group of Modesto fans put 73 spent beer cups to good use Thursday night, poking them through the Cyclone fence to spell out "Go Nuts."
If nothing else, those fans had fun during the first Thirsty Thursday promotion of the 2008 season -- certainly more fun than the Nuts had. Modesto's bats remained improbably silent, collecting only three hits while absorbing a 9-1 defeat at the hands of the Stockton Ports.
Sean Doolittle homered twice and drove in five runs for the Ports, who defeated Modesto for the fourth consecutive time. All four of Stockton's wins have come against the Nuts, who have yet to lose to anybody but the Ports.
The way the Nuts are swinging the bats, an early 2-0 deficit might seem insurmountable, especially when it comes gift-wrapped.
"At this point, we can't get behind early," said Nuts manager Jerry Weinstein. "But I don't think we feel like 2-0 is insurmountable. We're just trying to take good at-bats."
Modesto starter Simon Ferrer had trouble finding the plate with his knuckleball, resulting in seven walks over his three innings of work. The wildness began in the first inning, after Ferrer retired the first two batters he faced.
Frank Martinez drilled a two-out single, and Ferrer -- pitching out of the stretch -- walked the next four batters to hand Stockton a 2-0 lead. A leadoff walk to Martinez became a 3-0 Ports advantage thanks to a two-out RBI single by former Modesto A's catcher Jed Morris, and Ferrer (0-2) was lifted after walking the first batter he faced in the fourth.
"He didn't throw enough strikes, and when that's the case everything else has to go right," Weinstein said.
But Modesto's offense wasn't going right, which is the early theme of this season. Their three hits Thursday dropped their California League-worst team batting average from .186 to .175.
Some of the credit for Modesto's silence goes to Stockton starter Brett Anderson (2-0,) who has yet to allow a run this season in 12 innings of work, all against the Nuts.
"He was even better this time than last time," Weinstein said. "He had better stuff and better velocity."
The Ports piled on when Doolittle blasted a two-run homer in the seventh and added a three-run shot in Stockton's four-run eighth. He has 11 RBIs this season, all against the Nuts.
Modesto finally broke through in the bottom of the eighth, getting a two-out triple to right by Anthony Jackson, followed by a wild pitch. Jackson's hit was the only one collected by the Nuts after the second inning.
Yes, the Modesto offense remained stagnant.
At least the beer flowed.
Brian VanderBeek can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2300.