Occasionally, the Modesto Nuts get good pitching. And on occasion, the Nuts get good hitting.
And because it’s baseball, the best Modesto can hope for under such conditions is to be in position to grab an occasional win.
One night after being blanked through 10 innings to waste an excellent pitching effort, the Nuts broke through with eight runs, only to fall 12-8 to Stockton in a Mothers’ Day game at John Thurman Field.
“We’ve been unable to put it together,” said Modesto manager Don Sneddon. “We had enough offense today to win, but didn’t get enough pitching. Last night we got enough pitching and not enough offense.
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“It’s out of mesh right now and I hope the fans are patient with us right now as we work this out. We’re going to find a way.”
Even should the Nuts discover their synergy, it will be too late to salvage the first half. This was their sixth loss in a row and ninth in 10 games as they fell to a woeful 10-28. It’s the second-worst record in all of professional baseball, bested only in futility by the 8-25 Clearwater Threshers, Philadelphia’s entry in the High-A Florida State League.
“We’re at a point now where we don’t want to look at the standings,’ Sneddon said. “We know where we are. We’re the worst team in the league, standings-wise. Our work ethic doesn’t get wins in the newspaper, but it means a lot to me and to this organization.”
And that’s why the alarms, which might be going off inside Colorado’s player development offices, aren’t being heard in Modesto’s clubhouse.
“It’s just a tough patch we’re going through right now,” said Will Swanner, who greeted his new first base position with two doubles and three runs scored. “Our team is young and learning how to play.
“You know, it’s not frustrating. We’re all here early working our butts off. We’re putting together good games, but we need that one hit that tells us we’re going to start winning. We’re not putting teams away, and then we allow teams to come back on us.”
Modesto had two big innings against the Ports, scoring four runs in the second after Stockton had taken a 3-0 lead, then pushing across three runs in the sixth to briefly take a 7-6 lead.
But the Ports scored in all but two innings, putting dents in the earned run average of five different Nuts’ pitchers. It was a constant barrage by Stockton, which mixed 16 hits with seven walks and three Modesto errors to win comfortably.
This. coming one game after the Ports and Nuts played 10 innings in which the lone runs scored on back-to-back bases-loaded walks.
“We’re playing well,’ Swanner said. “We’re putting up runs. We have innings when the pitchers completely shut down the other team, but there seem to be two or three innings that just kill us.
“On offense, we’ll get second and third with nobody out and not score. And then we’ll give up a couple runs on a bloop - a terrible base hit.”
There is very little panic in the Nuts’ clubhouse. Then again, there’s very little joy, and the constant losing is beginning to show in the team’s on-field body language, as if it’s a group waiting for the next bad moment to happen.
Since waiting for luck is the worst way to break a slump, the team continues to work hard toward the moment when things start to jell, when the pitchers and hitters find a way to dine at the same table.
“It’s a great quote and it’s true that to be a great player, you have to be good every day,” Swanner said. “And everybody comes here every day to work to make that happen.
“We need one really good game that allows us to walk off the field cocky. That’s the attitude you need. If you’re not cocky, then why are you playing baseball?”