The first nine seasons of Nuts baseball all had something in common: every Modesto pitching staff had at least one arm capable of flicking a fastball toward the plate at something close to 100 mph.
Not this season. It’s not a problem, but there are no pure power pitchers in the Modesto rotation.
They’re still all capable of getting hitters out, but when control and location is just a bit off, outcomes like Wednesday’s 9-5 loss to San Jose can happen.
The Nuts, in having their three-game win streak snapped, saw a 5-2 lead slip away as the Giants ripped 14 hits and posted four crooked numbers on the scoreboard. With the exception of Brandon Erbe, who was effective in 11/3 innings in relief, Modesto’s pitching was hittable.
“As far as our starters go, we don’t have that power guy,” said manager Don Sneddon. “All of our starters have to be pitchers. They can’t rely on their fastball, so they’re going to have to throw a breaking ball in fastball counts.
“When they do have to throw a fastball, it’s going to have to be to location. When it’s not, what happened today is going to happen.”
Devin Burke, making his second start for Modesto and first at John Thurman Field, gave up four runs in four innings, but it wasn’t all his fault. The Nuts blew a rundown that led to a run, and Burke failed to hold a runner at third base after fielding a comebacker, giving San Jose another run.
But reliever Peter Tago gave up two runs on six hits and two walks over 22/3 innings, and Nate Striz allowed a two-run homer to Brian Ragira in a three-run San Jose ninth.
All of that seemed piling on after the Nuts squandered a 5-2 lead. They struck for a run in the first when David Kandilas led off with a triple and trotted home when Chris O’Dowd followed with a single to left.
Two walks and Trevor Story’s two-run double gave Modesto a 3-2 lead in the third, and Matt Wessinger has a two-run single in the fourth to give the Nuts a three-run cushion.
Even then, Modesto was a bad break away from adding on. With two outs and Francisco Sosa on third, Giants’ sidearming reliever Tyler Rogers let loose with a fastball that missed everything.
But instead of hitting the soft backstop padding, the ball found a spot on concrete and caromed hard back to catcher Trevor Brown, who tagged Sosa to end the inning.
O’Dowd had two hits, as did Sosa in breaking a personal 0-for-25 slide.
“We did have a couple bad breaks, but we can’t go every night and give up a lot of hits like we did today.” Sneddon said. “If we’re going to keep this winning thing going, pitching is going to have to step up.”
Despite the setback, the Nuts are in position to win their first series this season with a win tonight. Modesto is 0-6-1 so far in series, and when the Nuts claimed the first two games of the four-game set against San Jose it marked the first time they’d notched back-to-back wins against the same team.
Small steps for a struggling team.
“This league is unforgiving,” Sneddon said. “You get on a streak and then you run into something like what happened today. But we’re going to face better and better pitching as we go along, so our pitching always is going to be the key for us.”
Notes – The 3,058 on hand for the afterschool special promotion boosted the Nuts to a record April attendance of 38,115 in 14 dates. The previous record of 36,525 was set in 2012 in 13 April openings. Modesto’s attendance average of 2,723 leads the North Division and is third in the California League behind Lake Elsinore (4,028) and Inland Empire (2,789).