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Nuts close a jubilant July

STOCKTON — July is over, and no one is more disappointed to turn the calendar leaf than the Modesto Nuts.

The Nuts ended June in last place in the California League's North Division, but enter August in first place and in command of a playoff berth after posting an unthinkable 23-6 July record.

It was an amazing month that opened with a 17-run output at Stockton Ballpark and closed with Tuesday's 17-5 thrashing of the Ports at the same venue.

"That's pretty good and I guess you're going to ask me for the reason," Nuts manager Jerry Weinstein said. "We're not coaching any differently or doing anything differently than when we didn't play as well.

"It's the cumulative effect of good things happening and getting on a positive roll. It breeds self-confidence, and everyone in here has it going."

A lot of things have to go right for a team to win at a .793 clip for an entire month. Or, in Modesto's case, a lot of Nuts had to blossom, which made Tuesday's game a fitting end to July.

Every Modesto player had at least one hit, which meant Jeff Kindel extended his hitting streak to 26 games. He did it with a double in the seventh.

But Chris Nelson had four hits, including a home run, and drove in four runs; Daniel Carte had a homer among his four hits and drove in three runs; and Nelson Robledo had four singles to pace the Nuts' 21-hit attack.

With Robledo catching, it meant Brandon Durden was on the mound. Speaking of great months, Durden (8-6) went 5-0 with a 3.12 ERA in six July starts, all with Robledo catching.

"This is as good a streak as I've had in professional baseball," Weinstein said. "In college baseball I've had teams win 43 games in a row, but that was a function of an imbalance of talent."

Tuesday's game also was a microcosm of the month for Stockton. The Ports began July in first place and ended it in last after posting a 6-24 record.

Much of it can be blamed on the promotions to Double-A that slowly have decimated the Ports' attack.

Yes, the Nuts and Ports were two ships passing in Stockton's deep water channel.

In an effort to turn things around, the Ports gave Modesto native Branden Dewing a start.

Dewing (0-2) had appeared exclusively out of the bullpen since signing with Oakland last season, but Stockton manager Darren Bush wanted to give the lefty from Davis High a shot in the rotation.

"The longest we've used him this year has been three innings, and he's looked good in those longer outings," Bush said prior to the game. "We want to give him a chance to take it as long as he can go."

Dewing's outing was cut short after only seven outs.

He allowed nine runs on eight hits, but got no help from his defense. Three errors, including two in the outfield, kept Dewing in danger and made only four of the runs earned.

Modesto put the game on ice early, scoring once in the first, five times in the second and seven times in the third to take a 13-0 lead.

Nelson's homer in the sixth, his 15th of the season, gave him 37 RBIs for the month. Carte's homer, his 13th, led off the ninth.

"There's something to be said for momentum," Weinstein said. "But the baseball gods are smiling on us, too, because everything we're doing has us smelling like roses."

Bee staff writer Brian VanderBeek can be reached at bvanderbeek@modbee.com or 578-2300.

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