Getting only three runs and a 4-3 loss out of an 11-hit attack might seem like a waste of offense for the Modesto Nuts, but it put the team in the exact situation the parent Colorado Rockies wanted to see on Tuesday night.
Ryan Mattheus, the organization's projected closer this season for Triple-A Colorado Rockies, is back in Modesto to work back into shape after a spring training injury.
His role, no matter the score, was to pitch the ninth inning.
So when the Galt High product got the loss against Rancho Cucamonga, but reported no pain or tightness afterward, it was a loss for the Nuts and a win for the Rockies' organization.
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"It's just good to be back out there, no matter the situation," said Mattheus, who was seeing his first action outside of Tucson since suffering a strained oblique on March 22.
"I'm happy that it felt good. I don't ever want to lose a ballgame, and the result wasn't ideal, but I felt good and that's the biggest thing for me right now." Mattheus, who was a starter in Modesto in 2006 and again in Double-A Tulsa in 2007 before becoming a closer last year, entered to start the ninth inning with the score tied 3-3.
He hit Hector Estrella to open the inning, and Estrella moved to second on a passed ball. After a one-out intentional walk, No. 9 hitter Carlos Colmenares stroked a line drive to left field -- his fourth hit of the game -- to score Estrella with the winning run.
"It was a perfect situation to get two innings from Ryan right there, but we just didn't get it done," said Nuts' manager Jerry Weinstein. "We didn't help him. The passed ball certainly hurt us and we hit the leadoff batter in a situation where we needed to pitch more over the middle of the plate."
Nuts' starter Brandon Durden had an excellent outing after a slow start in which he allowed a run on three hits in the first inning and two more in the second on two walks and a double.
The Nuts kept it close by scoring two in the first on back-to-back doubles by Radames Nazario and Hector Gomez and a two-out single by Jason Van Kooten. Nazario had three hits for Modesto, while Gomez and Van Kooten had two hits apiece.
Both starters settled down from there. Durden worked into the seventh and allowed only four more hits while striking out seven, while Rancho starter Jayson Miller also got his team into the seventh, but not with the lead.
Modesto tied the game off Miller in the sixth when Brian Rike led off with a double and scored from there when Wilin Rosario's line-drive single to right field was booted for an error.
The Nuts got no hits and only one baserunner the rest of the way off the Quakes' bullpen. Carlos Luna and Matt Reynolds posted zeros for Modesto to hand the tie game to Mattheus.
"There was some rustiness and I wasn't able make the adjustment after missing high," Mattheus said. "I needed to refocus and get the ball down and I can't blame this on anything but not being able to make the adjustments."
Bee staff writer Brian VanderBeek can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2300.