Two in a row.
It might not sound like much, but when the Modesto Nuts rallied from a 4-0 first-inning deficit to beat Bakersfield 6-4 on Thursday, it was very easy to sense that this was a victory that meant something extra to a team that hasn’t won much this year.
Forget that it meant the Nuts broke a streak of having dropped 10 straight series, or that it marked only the second time since May that they’d won back-to-back games, because the sense in the clubhouse wasn’t one of relief – something I’d seen frequently after Modesto had broken long losing streaks – but one of accomplishment.
They rallied behind Jayson Aquino, who himself suddenly has snapped out of season-long slump with back-to-back exceptional pitching outings. They not only took the lead, but added on late in the form of a long home run by Jordan Ribera. And they played errorless in the field, keeping Aquino under his pitch limit when shortstop Pat Valaika and second baseman Juan Ciriaco turned three double plays.
In short, it was a win that was the direct product of the team’s dedication to doing the thing necessary to win, despite the limited positive feedback of the California League standings.
And in those standings, it wasn’t an important win, since Modesto’s outcomes long have been rendered irrelevant. But in every endeavor there needs to be a carrot. If you’re on a diet, it’s the first two pounds when you step on the scale. If you’re dedicated to being a decent golfer, it’s the first time you break 100.
So, yes, it was an important win, as Ribera – possibly the most positive player in the Nuts’ clubhouse – pointed out after his three-hit game.
“After the first inning, I’m sure everybody in the stands was thinking the same thing, like here we go again because the Nuts are losing,” Ribera said. “But the past two weeks we’ve been in every game – dogfighting from the first inning to the last pitch. I’m proud of everybody on this team because there was no way anybody was hanging their head after we got down 4-0, and it would have been easy to do the way this season was going. This kind of game is what we’re capable of doing. We have 17 games left and I’m hoping we play 17 games like this.
“We do take our win-loss record personal – 100 percent. But what can you do about it? Guys still are showing up at 11 or noon and working. It’s about getting better personally and as a team, and we’re doing that. A lot of time, teams like this will start having fights in the clubhouse and guys start pointing fingers and there’s none of that here. That’s what makes this ground special. That’s something we can take with us. This is our character and this is how you handle adversity. This season might turn out to be a blessing in disguise for some guys down the road, because if they can handle this kind of adversity, it might work out in their favor down the road.”
One thing about the way this season is going. It’s a rare scenario, with no chance of a playoff berth, that the Nuts know for certain they’ll be packing up and heading home after their Labor Day afternoon home game against Stockton.
Until then, win or lose, expect the Nuts to be sprinting toward the line.
I was able to report last month, per sources in position to know, that the player development contract between the Oakland A’s and Sacramento RiverCats was not going to be renewed, starting a domino effect that would send the A’s Triple-A players to the new ballpark in Nashville, and San Francisco’s prospects from Fresno to Sacramento.
I had heard from several sources that the Los Angeles Dodgers might be looking to move into Fresno’s Chukchansi Park, but it now appears firm that the Dodgers will be moving their Triple-A affiliate from Albuquerque to Oklahoma City.
For the time being it leaves Milwaukee (currently in Nashville) and Houston (Oklahoma City) orphaned, and it will be interesting to see which team eventually ends up in Fresno. One thing to watch -- the Rockies have yet to re-up their player development contract with Colorado Springs, and while they certainly enjoy having their prospects close to Denver they also would appreciate the chance to play in a modern facility, which Colorado Springs’ Security Service Field is not.
A plan to build a new, downtown ballpark in Colorado Springs was dashed last fall when city officials removed it from an application for state funding. The $60.7 million plan would have funded construction of a new ballpark, an Olympic museum, a sports medicine facility for the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, and an Air Force Academy visitors’ center.
The Rockies still have not renewed their PDC with the Modesto Nuts, but both sides are saying that’s it’s only a formality and that Colorado will stay at John Thurman Field at least through the 2016 season.