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Expect Nuts back in black after victory

The rule in the Modesto Nuts' clubhouse, and many others in professional baseball, calls for the starting pitcher to decide which of the uniform tops the team will wear.

The Nuts have their choice of the home whites, the road blacks and the seldom-used red mesh batting practice jerseys.

Alan Johnson was Modesto's starter Wednesday, but the uniform decision was made well before he arrived at John Thurman Field.

Because the Nuts wore black jerseys Tuesday and broke out of an extended hitting slump by cracking 14 hits in a victory, the black jerseys again would be on display for Wednesday's game.

And after gathering 12 hits in a 5-3 victory over Rancho Cucamonga, black might be the chosen color scheme for some time to come.

"The decision was made for me last night, said Johnson, who improved to 6-4 with seven strong innings. "One of the last things (manager) Jerry (Weinstein) said last night was that we would be wearing the black uniforms again."

The bigger joke here is that Weinstein — unlike nearly everyone else in organized baseball — claims to not be superstitious. He doesn't care which pant leg he puts on first, he doesn't have a set snack between batting practice and the game, and sometimes he'll even step on a line en route to his third-base coach's box.

"He's superstitious about some things because he made sure we would be wearing black," Johnson said.

For his part, Weinstein did admit making the decision about the jerseys, but stopped short of calling it superstitious.

"I did mandate those. Well, change is good. I'm adapting and adjusting like everybody else. We'll be wearing black jerseys for as long as we keep winning, and at least three times on the road."

But of course the jerseys didn't do the hitting Wednesday. The players did, and for a second consecutive night they showed the kind of patience and offensive balance that — if continued — could bring success in the second half.

A Quakes error helped Modesto take a 2-0 lead in the fourth inning. Justin Nelson led off with a walk and Jeff Kindel singled him to second base. Neil Wilson followed with a sharp ground ball to third, where Larry Infante stepped on the base for one out, but threw wildly to first base to allow both runners to advance.

With two runners in scoring position, Nick Haley cashed in with an off-field single to left — the first of his three hits. The Nuts got one more in the fifth off Quakes starter Anthony Ortega (4-7) when Eric Young Jr. singled with one out, stole second and scored on Nelson's single.

Johnson worked the first seven innings for Modesto, allowing only a single run in the sixth on two singles and a wild pitch. He gave up five hits — all singles — while walking two and striking out a season-high nine batters.

Modesto padded the lead in the eighth when Haley singled and Daniel Carte launched his sixth homer of the season, a blast to left-center.

The insurance was redeemed in the ninth when the Quakes scored twice on a double and an error, but Andrew Johnston got the final outs to salvage a split of the four-game series.

That's 0-2 with the home white tops and 2-0 with the black tops.

"You get the feeling going into this game, after we scored 11 runs last night and the way we usually hit the ball, that it would be tough to repeat that," Johnson said. "But any run support is good and I'm very happy with what they gave me."