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Nuts pitcher Williamson shuts out Blaze

After a few short months in Modesto, Joey Williamson has turned himself into a person of interest.

While those words normally are used in the context of a police investigation, they also fit perfectly for the Nuts' right-hander, who won his team-leading 11th game of the season in Modesto's 11-0 whitewash of the Bakersfield Blaze.

Five different Nuts players had two hits in the team's 12-hit attack, but no hit was bigger than the three-run double launched by Jay Cox in Modesto's five-run fourth inning.

The uprising boosted the Nuts' lead to 7-0 at the time, giving Williamson more-than-ample support.

Saturday's performance -- a 6º inning, six-hit, five-strikeout effort -- is the latest in a string of strong starts for Williamson, who is 11-1 this season and 20-1 in his professional career.

But this one might have been special for Williamson -- perhaps not now, but down the road -- since Colorado's vice president/director of baseball operations Bill Geivett was town to watch the Nuts play.

"It's tough not to think about that when they're here, and it is there in the back of your mind," Williamson said. "But you can't let it make any difference and you have to let it go. Hopefully, they'll see good things while they're here." And Geivett certainly did, as Williamson posted his second straight scoreless outing.

"Sooner or later, even baseball people catch on when you keep on winning games," Geivett said. "When you just continue to win, people can't ignore you. From what I can see, some pretty good hitters on this Bakersfield team are having trouble hitting tonight."

The manner in which Williamson has collected the wins also is interesting. He's 6-0 in 16 relief appearances this season, and 5-1 as a starter.

He made a spot start on April 14, another on May 4, then was thrust into the rotation in late June when Bruce Billings went down with a sore shoulder.

Williamson said he has no problem moving back into the bullpen when Billings does return, which should be soon, but that decision has yet to be made.

"We have talked about the scenarios, which include Williamson going back to the pen when Billings returns, and that's a move that would help us," said Nuts' manager Jerry Weinstein.

Modesto got Williamson a run in the first when Charlie Blackmon and Jason Van Kooten led off the game with doubles, and the Nuts never looked back.

Jeff Cunningham delivered a sacrifice fly in the third, and the Nuts put away the win in the fourth. Lars Davis led off with a single and was sacrificed to second. Michael Mitchell was hit by a pitch and Blackmon singled to load the bases.

Van Kooten brought home one run with a single, and Cox followed with his drive to right-center to clear the bases. He later stole third and scored on a wild pitch.

Williamson, who still doesn't have the leeway of a full-time starter's pitch count, was pulled with two outs in the seventh inning, having thrown 98 pitches.

Xavier Cedeno got four outs in relief, and Randall Taylor enticed three fly balls in the ninth to close out the win that boosted the Nuts' margin in the North Division wild-card race to nine games over the Blaze with 40 games remaining.

Yes, Saturday night's game was No. 100 of the season for the Nuts, and so far Williams has emerged as one of the season's top stories as the player whose performance has made this a personal breakout season.

"He has some deception to his delivery -- a little tilt to his head -- and not a lot of guys are getting good swings," Geivett said. "That always works, and especially for us when you look at Coors Field. He stands out as a very interesting guy."

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

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