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Nuts give full 'Nelson'

After closing the first half of the season with losses in 13 of 19 games, the Modesto Nuts opened the second half with a victory based on the oldest of illegal wrestling holds.

That's right, they pinned the Visalia Oaks with a full Nelson.

Chris Nelson doubled with two outs in the 10th inning and scored when familiar newcomer Justin Nelson followed with a sharp single to right to give the Nuts a 3-2 victory Thursday at John Thurman Field.

"When I got off the plane today I didn't expect this to happen," said Justin Nelson, who spent the entire 2006 season with Modesto but is getting back into shape after off-season knee surgery. "I couldn't have expected anything better."

With two outs and no one aboard in the 10th, Chris Nelson hit a soft pop fly into right center off Daniel Stange (3-5) that fell between three converging fielders. When it bounced away, he scooted to second base.

"Bloop? That was a rip," Nelson said. "If I wasn't thinking about a double, we wouldn't have scored there. So I was being aggressive at the right time."

Justin Nelson then picked on a 1-1 offering and drilled it into right field for his third hit of the game, allowing Chris Nelson to score the winning run with a slide.

When asked about his three-hit homecoming, Justin Nelson was goaded by teammate Jose "Candy" Valdez (on the disabled list) to confess to the real power behind his efforts.

"Oh yeah, I had Candy's pants on," Justin Nelson said. "That gave me a little extra oomph."

Candypants Nelson. You have just witnessed the birth of a nickname.

"There's no time to think about what I'm doing wrong or right, it's just read and react," Justin Nelson said. "I'm in spring training mode, and I always hit well in spring training. I'm just trying to get my swing grooved."

His impact, however, was immediate, starting with the Nuts' two-run first inning.

Chris Nelson lined a one-out triple to right and scored on Justin Nelson's ground ball. Jeff Kindel reached on an infield error to prolong the inning, and when Neil Wilson doubled to the wall in left-center, Modesto had a 2-0 lead.

Visalia tied the score with single runs in the fourth and fifth. With two outs in the fourth, Cyle Hankard lofted a deep fly to left that bounced off the base of the wall and popped high into the air. Justin Nelson stumbled while trying to grab the ball, and by the time the relay throw came to the plate, Hankard had an inside-the-park homer.

Pedro Ciriaco singled with one out in the fifth and eventually scored the tying run on a sacrifice fly.

The Oaks would do no more damage off Modesto starter Chaz Roe, who had one of his best outings of the season. Over eight innings, he allowed nine hits and struck out five, but the league-leader in walks did not issue a free pass.

Pedro Strop (4-2) worked the ninth and 10th to earn the win, showing off his 97 mph fastball along the way.

It got the Nuts into the 10th, when they utilized the full Nelson.

"A lot of guys hitting a pop-up in that situation aren't thinking double, but Chris was thinking about a double right out of the box," said Nuts' manager Jerry Weinstein. "That changes the whole complexion of the game."

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

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