The Modesto Nuts capped a frustrating weekend with a breath of fresh air.
Starter Reggie McClain improved to 4-1 as the Nuts avoided a three-game sweep with a 6-1 win over the Visalia Rawhide on Sunday afternoon at Thurman Field. The win vaulted Modesto (14-10) to sole possession of first place in the California League’s North Division.
McClain allowed only a run on four hits and struck out six in 5 1/3 innings. His confidence grew after Modesto struck for three runs in the third after a fit of wildness by Rawhide starter Jose Almonte (1-2).
Almonte opened the inning with a hit-batsman and three walks, the third to Jordan Cowan for the Nuts’ first run. Modesto scored later on a wild pitch and Chris Mariscal’s fielder’s choice.
Modesto increased its lead to 5-0 in the fifth via an error for a run and Donnie Walton’s RBI single. The Nuts added their final run on Gianfranco Wawoe’s run-scoring hit in the sixth.
Relievers Joey Strain and Spencer Herrmann kept Visalia in check. Herrmann induced a double play in the eighth and worked around two singles in the ninth.
The Nuts quickly returned to Thurman for Sunday’s matinee after a difficult 5-3 loss Saturday night. They were doomed by four Rawhide runs, three unearned, in the eighth.
Modesto carried a 2-1 lead into the eighth but Visalia quickly tied on back-to-back doubles by Gregor Blanco and Jason Morozowski (3-for-5) off reliever Joe Pistorese (0-1). Lukas Schiraldi, who replaced Pistorese, committed a throwing error on an attempted sacrifice bunt to load the bases. Galli Cribbs dumped a triple to shallow left that emptied the bases.
The Nuts closed to 5-3 in the ninth on Mariscal’s two-out RBI single. Visalia’s Mason McCullough struck out Eric Filia for the final out.
Modesto took a 2-0 lead in the fourth on Joe DeCarlo’s RBI single and a run-scoring double play. The Nuts totaled eight hits, but no player had more than one. Visalia stroked 10 hits, five of them doubles.
Starter Anthony Misewicz improved over his rough outing earlier in the week against Inland Empire. The lefty struck out five and allowed only one run in 5 1/3 innings.
Visalia starter Joel Payamps (2-0) struck out seven in seven innings for the win.
Blanco (2-for-4), the ex-San Francisco Giant on rehab assignment, figured in Visalia’s back-to-back victories. Modesto’s momentum was stemmed by rehabbing big-leaguers. Angels first baseman Luis Valbuena contributed to two Inland Empire wins.
Modesto travels to San Jose to begin a three-game series Monday night.