The Bakersfield Blaze moved ahead of the Modesto Nuts two games to none in the California League North Division Series with a tremendous offensive showing, knocking the Nuts onto their heels with the victory, 8-5.
Modesto scored first, but the Blaze scored second and third, and in greater quantity.
The tallies began in the 2nd inning, when Tim Crabbe (W, 1-0) issued a leadoff walk and a fielding error in leftfield allowed the Nuts two runners with no outs. A groundout, a single, and a wild pitch plated two, and the Nuts grabbed the quick 2-0 lead -- their only lead of the game.
Just moments later, the Blaze went to work. Back-to-back singles by Juan Duran and Dominic D'Anna and an errant throw put Blaze at second and third with one out, and a grounder brought in the first run. Josef Terry then worked a full count before bouncing a top-spin grounder to the right side. In a stroke of fortune, the ball hit a lip on the infield, bouncing over Jared Clark and into right for a bad-hop single, scoring D'Anna, and bringing Danny Vicioso to the plate. Vicioso made the good luck count, smashing a line drive bullet over the wall in left for a two-run shot, putting the Blaze up 4-2.
After driving Modesto starter Juan Gonzalez (L, 0-1) from the game after just three innings, the Blaze took aim at Roberto Padilla in the 4th. Ryan Wright's solo shot to begin the inning put Bakersfield up 5-2, and four consecutive singles gave the Blaze a four run cushion into the middle innings.
The game remained interesting until the end. Modesto tacked on solo homers in the 6th and 7th to trim the Blaze lead to 6-4, and also end the day for Crabbe (who ended up going 6.2 innings in the win), but the Blaze countered with a momentum-stopping insurance run. In the bottom of the 7th, Travis Mattair and D'Anna singled with one out, and a slow roller to third scored Mattair, putting the Blaze back up by three.
Finally, the key moment came in the 8th. Andrew Brackman, who had relieved Crabbe in the 7th, struck out the leadoff man, but he, Rafael Ortega, reached on a wild pitch, before Brackman walked the next two batters to load the bases with nobody out. Mike Dennhardt (S, 1) was summoned from the pen, and Dennhardt promptly struck out Dallas Tarleton before the goofy play that effectively ended the game for Modesto.
With one out and the bases still loaded, Jayson Langfels hit a soft fly into shallow centerfield. Theo Bowe came on to make the catch, with Ortega bluffing a tag at third. In a moment of complete and total confusion, Brett Tanos, the runner at second base, forgot to retreat to the bag, and Bowe fired a bullet to second, doubling off Tanos, and retiring the side.
The Blaze added a run in the 8th on a bunt single, an error, a sacrifice bunt and a sacrifice fly, and Modesto put one back in the 9th on Juan Crousset's solo homer, but after that 8th inning threat, Modesto had nothing left in the tank.
With the victory, the Blaze moves to 2-0 in the best-of-five series against the Nuts, and needs to win just one of the next three games to advance to the California League Championship against the winner of Lancaster-High Desert in the South.
This series continues in Modesto on Monday night at 7:05pm, with Bakersfield's Stalin Gerson getting the nod, and for the Nuts, Major League lefty Jorge De La Rosa will likely be making a rehab appearance, with Christian Bergman to follow.
Tune in to all the Blaze playoff action at 6:55pm, with Dan Besbris bringing the call live at John Thurman Field.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.