If the Modesto Nuts absolutely had to tie the franchise record for losses in a season, this might have been the most perfectly painful way to make it happen.
Before dropping a 5-3 decision to Visalia in 11 innings, the Nuts had to give up a two-run, two-out game-tying single in the top of the ninth and leave the bases loaded in the 10th.
And all of that played into loss No. 88 of the season, tying the franchise record established by the Modesto Reds in 1947, the second season of California League baseball in Stanislaus County.
With 13 games remaining, a new record is all but certain to be set, perhaps as early as tonight when Modesto visits San Jose to open a three-game series.
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The Rawhide’s game-winning rally came against Peter Tago (0-6), who allowed a leadoff triple and three singles in his single inning of work.
Until the ninth, a well-deserved win was headed into the plus column of Devin Burke, who might have found a new pre-game routine.
He began his Monday at the ballpark by gathering about 10 empty five-gallon buckets, then filling them with ice and water for the purpose of being dumped on his teammates after batting practice, all in the name of charity.
If that sounds like the Ice Bucket Challenge that’s sweeping the nation, well, yes. But it’s what Burke did two hours before his best outing since May.
The Nuts were challenged by Colorado’s short-season rookie ball team in Grand Junction, Colo., to cool off in the name of charity and awareness of the fight against Lou Gehrig’s disease. The Nuts turned around and challenged the rest of the league, in a video than can be seen HERE.
Once the game started, Burke was motivated by his own self-challenge to post a strong finish to his own up-and-down season.
He ended up going six innings, allowing one run on four hits with a walk and six strikeouts. All of the hits were singles, with three of the infield variety.
And he had to be sharp, since he spent most of the game matching zeros with Visalia starter Spencer Arroyo, a product of East Union High and Modesto Junior College. Neither would factor in the decision.
Arroyo worked seven strong innings, allowing three runs on six hits with excellent efficiency, throwing only 85 pitches.
He allowed a run in the first when Pat Valaika’s two-out double was followed by Jordan Ribera’s RBI single to right – the first of Ribera’s four hits.
Visalia immediately answered, tying the score on two infield singles and a wild pitch, but the Rawhide wouldn’t threaten again until the sixth, when they put runners at the corners with one out.
Burke’s final pitch, with the runner going at first base, was lashed on the ground toward left field, but Valaika speared it on a backhand and flipped the ball in one motion to second baseman Alec Merhten to start the inning-ending double play.
The Nuts then went out and got Burke the win by scoring twice in the bottom of the inning. They loaded the bases on singles by Mike Tauchman and Kyle Von Tungeln ahead of a walk to Valaika.
Ribera followed with a slow roller toward third that became a tie-breaking infield single, and the insurance run scored on Francisco Sosa’s double play ground ball.
The score would hold up until the ninth, when Rayan Gonzalez – asked to get a rare four-out save – couldn’t hold the lead.
The Rawhide tied the game on a walk and three hits, with a two-out, two-run single up the middle by Breland Almadova, tying the game 3-3.
Both teams squandered chances to win the game in the 10th. Visalia loaded the bases with one out before Bruce Kern enticed a double-play grounder from Brandon Jacobs, and Modesto left the bases loaded, wasting a one-out double from Merhten.