It might be time to make a binding observation about the Modesto Nuts, which in most seasons would be dangerous only nine games into a 140-game season.
Even though the Nuts are only 4-5 at this early point, a trait has emerged that should make them interesting to watch through the summer.
These guys can hit.
Inland Empire entered the game ranked second in the California League in staff ERA and left on the whipping end of a 13-1 loss to Modesto in front of 3,942 fans at John Thurman Field.
But the hitting didn’t only come along with the arrival of the 66ers. This is a group of players that set a South Atlantic League record with a .292 team average in its 2014 championship run, and entered Friday night hitting a collective .272 through the opening week.
And by collective, yes, it was up and down the lineup, as player after player came to the plate with solid approaches against four Inland Empire pitchers.
“It’s something the whole lineup puts pride in - putting together good at-bats,” said shortstop Zach Osborne. “It’s early in the season, and that’s part of what we tried to do in spring training and are trying to continue now.”
Leadoff hitter Raimel Tapia drive in five runs with three doubles and a sacrifice fly, No. 6 hitter Rosell Herrera picked up two singles, as did Osborne in the No. 9 spot.
There also was a cleanup hitter who did what cleanup hitters are supposed to do. Corelle Prime got the offensive show going in the second inning when he picked on a high 3-0 fastball and drilled it over the centerfield fence for his first homer of the season, a solo shot.
Another example of how this offense is supposed to work is in how the runs scored - by keeping the lineup moving.
Modesto sent eight batters to the plate in a three-run second and 10 each in a five-run fourth and four-run seventh.
That was far more offense than was needed with the pitching the Nuts received. Starter Harrison Musgrave earned his first Nuts win by holding the 66ers to one run on three hits over five innings.
Reliever Shane Broyles – one of only three roster holdovers from 2014 – allowed three hits and struck out five in 2 2/3 scoreless innings.
“One thing that helped us get to the championship last year is that we have a lot of guys who know their game and how to put the ball into play without trying to do too much,” Osborne said.
“We let guys like Correlle hit the ball out and guys like me don’t necessarily have to do it. That’s what makes us a good team.”
NUTS NOTES: The home team debuted their first alternate jersey of the season, a maroon top with a logo marking the 10th anniversary of the beginning of the Nuts and the affiliation with the Colorado Rockies. Those jerseys will be worn at every Friday home game and will be auctioned for charity at the end of the season. Three other single-night charity jerseys will be worn during the season.
Bee staff writer Brian VanderBeek can be reached at email@example.com or (209) 578-2150. Follow him on Twitter @modestobeek.