Nuts return to Cal League playoffs

Ferrer pitches Modesto to 5-1 clincher over Bakersfield

(Ken Weisenberger/

By Steve Conley / Special to | August 30, 2008 9:53 PM ET

If the axiom is true and pitching wins championships, the Modesto Nuts are in good hands.

Simon Ferrer allowed one run over seven innings Saturday as the Nuts clinched their fourth California League playoff berth in five years with a 5-1 victory over the Bakersfield Blaze at Sam Lynn Ballpark.

Ferrer (8-11) scattered six hits and a walk while striking out two to win for only the second time in his last seven starts. Chris Malone followed with two scoreless frames, allowing one hit and striking out one, for his third save.

Modesto will try to advance in the playoffs for the first time since winning the California League Championship in 2004. The Nuts lost in the semifinals in 2005 and 2007, when Jerry Weinstein guided the club to a 76-64 record in his first season as manager.

"It's a good feeling," Weinstein said. "We battled all year long and we had to mix and match after losing our shortstop [Hector Gomez] in the first game of the season. It's interesting that only one of these guys has been to the playoffs before. I don't believe the lack of experience will matter. It's the same game."

After Daniel Mayora hit his 34th double of the season in the first inning, Mike Paulk singled him home and the teams traded zeros until Bakersfield's Ian Gac tied it with a solo homer in the seventh.

Paulk broke the deadlock an inning later with a run-scoring single. Thomas Simmons delivered an RBI double and Mike McKenry singled home two more runs to provide the final margin.

Modesto's Anthony Jackson, who ranks third in the league with 39 stolen bases, went 3-for-5 to raise his average to .300.

The Nuts (36-31) relied on their pitching staff to reach the postseason, ranking second in the 10-team league with a 3.95 ERA. Right-hander Aneury Rodriguez is tied for the club lead with nine wins, including a pair of shutouts, and tops the circuit with 139 strikeouts. Fellow Dominican Esmil Rogers is 9-7 with a 3.95 ERA in 22 starts.

According to Weinstein, Modesto will go as far as those arms take it.

"That's been the key. They've kept us in the every game for the most part," he said. "We've played a lot of close games, so without the pitching, especially the starters, we wouldn't be where we are. That's the No. 1 priority."

Tanner Roark (1-3) took the loss after giving up four runs on four hits and a walk with one strikeout in one inning. Blaze starter Omar Poveda matched Ferrer through seven frames, yielding one run on seven hits and a walk with a season-high nine strikeouts.

Renny Osuna doubled and walked in four plate appearances for Bakersfield (24-44), which has lost 11 straight.

Steve Conley is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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