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Nuts' pitching parade victorious in Stockton

In clubhouse jargon, Johnny Allstaff was the pitcher for the Modesto Nuts on Tuesday night.

Actually, that's just slang for the games in which a reliever steps out of the bullpen to make a start with a very limited pitch count and the knowledge he could be followed to the mound by a short parade of arms.

The parade of Nuts was five deep and successful, keeping Stockton bats reasonably quiet in a 3-2 Modesto victory at windy and well-chilled John Thurman Field.

The scoreboard thermometer, which is not synchronized with the National Weather Service, dipped into the 40s by the middle innings -- brutal cold by Central Valley baseball standards, but just about right for Nuts' starter Joey Williamson.

"This was like a mid-May game at Notre Dame, so this was nothing," said the former Fighting Irish hurler, who made two spot starts last season in low-A Asheville. "I approach this the same as if I'm coming out of the pen -- throw strikes and get ahead of the hitters. If I can keep the pitch count down, that's all the better."

The goal is for the starter to go five innings, to keep his team close and qualify for the win. But that's a bigger-picture individual goal. Williamson did his part by going four innings and limiting the Ports to two runs.

That's when the parade began.

Austin Chambliss worked two scoreless innings, and Edgmer Escalona stranded two Ports in a strange seventh inning.

With a runner on second base and one out, Escalona had his glove up to receive a throw back after a foul ball from catcher Willin Rosario, but apparently Escalona wasn't looking for the throw, which hit him in the face.

Escalona dropped to his knees and was treated by the Nuts' training staff, but stayed in the game to finish the inning.

Modesto's setup-closer duo took over from there, as Matt Reynolds stranded a potential tying run at second base in the eighth and Craig Baker working the ninth for his fourth save through the Nuts' opening six games.

"In the minor leagues, for all intents and purposes, every game is a staff game," said Nuts' manager Jerry Weinstein. "You see very few complete games because of pitch counts. You're only as good as your pitchers one through 12, because if your bridge guys can't hold the lead, the starters don't win." Modesto and Stockton entered the game as the California League's only two teams yet to hit a home run.

But when Jay Cox followed Jason Van Kooten's first-inning double with an off-field homer to left, the Nuts had a 2-0 lead and the Ports were a powerless party of one.

Modesto added a run in the second when Kevin Clark singled and eventually scored on Warren Schaeffer's double-play ground ball.

The Ports struck back for two runs in the third on a two-out walk, an RBI double by Todd Johnson, a wild pitch and Mike Affronti's infield single. But Stockton, which remains winless and has scored only five runs through six games, would strand six runners over the final six innings.

Meanwhile, Modesto is off to a 5-1 start, easily the best start the franchise has enjoyed since becoming a Rockies' affiliate in 2005.

And Johnny Allstaff, er, the bullpen, has been a huge part of that early success.

"It's a blast right now," Williamson said. "We're playing well and we have to keep it rolling."

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

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