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Instant replay: Modesto bats stay quiet in defeat

Brandon Durden climbed the mound for his start Sunday wearing his third different uniform number of the season.

The first jersey, No. 40, he explained, was mangled beyond repair in a San Bernardino laundry incident. He donned No. 6 on an interim basis, but didn't fare well, so he ditched it in favor of No. 23.

If you're a pitcher on the Modesto Nuts, you get away with fashionable flippance. But if you're a Nuts hitter seeking a number change because you've gone into a slump, forget it.

The team does not own that many jerseys.

In the season's first meeting of the two lightest-hitting teams in the California League, Modesto proved the weaker of the two, amassing only four hits in a 6-3 loss to Rancho Cucamonga at John Thurman Field.

"The reality is that if we play better defense, four hits and three runs would have been enough to win 3-2," Nuts manager Jerry Weinstein said.

Another reality is that Durden (3-5) pitched more than well enough to win with just a little offensive and defensive support. He went seven innings and allowed two earned runs on eight hits, with two walks and four strikeouts, and proclaimed himself less than sharp.

"The (all-star) break threw me off a little," Durden said. "It was my first time on the mound in nine days. It wasn't that I felt stronger, it's just that it takes a while to get into a groove."

Weinstein said the layoff was a concern going into Durden's start and was addressed in the pregame meeting.

"Even though you've been throwing on the side, when you step on the mound you have more adrenaline and it's a different ballgame," Weinstein said.

"If you haven't been out there in nine days, it's a new experience. Dealing with game emotions isn't the same as pitching to a catcher with no hitter in the box."

The Quakes got unearned runs in the first and second. Durden's own error led to the first run, and the second cruised home when an outfield relay throw got away.

The Quakes added to the lead in the fourth. Jordan Renz homered off Durden, then Flint Wipke walked and eventually scored on a groundout.

Modesto continued its struggles to get runners on base, and once there, to advance them. In the fourth, the Nuts placed runners at second and third with no outs, and scored only because the Quakes failed to turn a double play on Daniel Carte's bases-loaded ground ball.

Neil Wilson slammed a homer in the sixth off Quakes starter Stephen Marek (5-4) to pull the Nuts within 4-2, and got another when Kyle Blumenthal led off the seventh with a double, went to third on a bunt and scored on a two-out wild pitch.

The Quakes added to their lead in the ninth off Modesto closer Andrew Johnston, who issued a walk before giving up Ben Johnson's eighth homer of the season.

With the Nuts back to playing every day, Durden's next start should come Friday in Bakersfield. Barring another tragic laundry incident, he'll be wearing No. 23.

At 6-feet, 3-inches, and 220 pounds, Durden's not a single-digit kind of guy.

"He definitely needs two numbers," Weinstein said. "That big body would not look good with one number."

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

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