Sam Howard is getting comfortable in the California League.
Howard struck out 10 and allowed only two hits in eight masterful innings as the Modesto Nuts blanked San Jose 8-0 Saturday night. By the time the fireworks were ignited for 4,061 at Thurman Field, Howard raised his league-leading strikeout total to 66.
His dominating performance was timely. The Nuts (20-30) had lost six of eight and, worse, approached a nine-game trip, which started Sunday with a 5-2 loss to the Giants in San Jose.
Howard (3-3), the lefty from Georgia Southern, turned the momentun in Modesto’s favor Saturday. In fact, it was his fourth straight good start and the second time in barely two weeks he struck out 10 Giants.
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He set the tone by picking off San Jose’s Ronnie Jebavy in the first inning. Jebavy and Jose Vizcaino Jr. accounted for the only Giants hits.
66 Sam Howard’s Cal League-leading strikeout total
Modesto took a 1-0 lead in the first on a two-out double by Shane Hoelscher and a run-scoring single by Drew Weeks. Hoelscher’s sixth homer, a solo shot to left in the fourth, gave Howard more breathing room.
The Nuts pulled away during a four-run sixth featuring a three-run hit by Forrest Wall. That chased San Jose starter Jason Forjet (5-3).
Yoely Bello relieved Howard in the ninth and completed the shutout.
Modesto and San Jose (29-19), finish the four-game series Monday at 2 p.m. in San Jose.