State

On the day Nuts pass 5 million-fan mark, team rallies for dramatic win

The Modesto Nuts were three outs from a 1-0 loss to San Jose on Sunday when Radames Nazario came to the plate to start the bottom of the ninth.

But before getting into the batter's box, Nazario had a brief conversation with manager Jerry Weinstein.

"I asked Jerry if we were taking a pitch in that situation and he said we weren't," Nazario said. "I was looking for a fastball in the middle and I wanted to crush it. I got the fastball and hit it."

Nazario's first-pitch line-drive double to right-center was the spark the Nuts were looking for, and when Michael Mitchell and Charlie Blackmon came through with back-to-back two-out RBI singles, Modesto had escaped the sweltering afternoon at John Thurman Field with a stunning 2-1 victory.

"That was one of the best games we've had here for fans -- if you like pitching and situations and traffic on the bases," Weinstein said.

Nazario's double -- his fourth hit of the game -- came off Edwin Quirarte (0-3). Lars Davis moved Nazario to third with a sacrifice bunt, but the rally seemed to stall when Jeff Cunningham grounded out to first base.

But Mitchell picked on a 1-1 low curve and smacked it to left field to tie the game, and stole second base on a very close play. Blackmon then got enough of a 2-2 pitch to ground it through the right side, and Mitchell beat the throw home with a slide.

"We didn't do a good job advancing runners with outs, then Nazario came up big, drilling that ball into right-center," Weinstein said. "Lars getting him to third with the bunt was the play of the day."

No one would have criticized either team for wilting in the heat. While the actual temperature during the game reached 101 degrees, it felt hotter than that on the field, and it didn't help the morale when the scoreboard thermometer soared to 112 degrees.

Nazario, for one, didn't mind.

"I don't love playing in the heat, but I do like it," Nazario said. "It's the same routine before the game and it's the same game while we're playing it, no matter the heat. I don't do anything special."

Well, four hits to raise his batting average to .293 counts as special, and the way Modesto's pitchers threw the ball also was special.

Starter Kenny Durst was sharp, allowing one run on five hits over six innings. The Giants got to Durst for a run in the sixth on a two-out walk, a single by Buster Posey and an RBI single to right field by Roger Kieshnick.

Joey Williamson worked a hitless seventh and Matt Reynolds (2-1) retired all six batters he faced to give the Nuts a chance to rally in the ninth. Jay Cox and Cunningham had two hits apiece for Modesto, which outhit San Jose 11-5.

"We've lost a couple games so this game was important for the whole team environment, for us to be confident again," Nazario said.

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

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