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Winkler, Modesto complete no-hitter

After flirting with bid June 15, righty helps Nuts make history
June 24, 2013

The change-up came out of his hand and the flashback began.

With nobody out in the seventh inning Monday, Class A Advanced Modesto's Dan Winkler hung a change to San Jose's Brock Bond, and the left-handed hitter smacked it. As the ball soared into right field, Winkler recalled the double he'd allowed to Juan Silva 10 days earlier.

Silva's two-bagger had broken up Winkler's no-hit bid against Bakersfield and as right fielder David Kandilas chased after Bond's shot, the Rockies' right-handed prospect watched another chance at history racing toward the warning track.

"It flashed in my mind that I had hung another change," Winkler said. "But Kandy ran it down."

Indeed, Kandilas nabbed Bond's rocket to right, and with the help of relievers Nelson Gonzalez and Scott Oberg, Winkler and the Nuts did make history Monday with a no-hit effort in a 2-0 win over the San Jose Giants.

"It was like destiny, man," Winkler said. "It was just meant to be. You can't explain it."

Winkler (10-2) was dominant, as he has been for nearly the entire season. He struck out seven and walked three, and now sits first in the California League in ERA (1.99), wins, strikeouts (105) and innings (90 2/3).

Good as he as, a little luck and some good defense went a long way. After being robbed by Candilas, Bond again threatened the no-hit bid with two outs in the bottom of the ninth. Facing closer Scott Oberg, the Giants' second baseman smoked a grounder back up the middle. The ball deflected off Oberg's calf and ricocheted toward first base, where Harold Riggins scooped it up.

 Oberg recovered from the shot in time to get to first, catching Riggins' flip and stepping on the bag just ahead of a diving Bond to seal the no-hitter.

"It hit off my leg and I saw it deflect to Harold Riggins," Oberg said. "As soon as I saw that, I thought, 'I gotta get over there and make that play and finish this up.' I just reacted to the play. I got lucky. It could've easily gone right past me and up the middle.

"It was just one of those things where my leg was in the right spot. I would like to say I tried to make the kick save, but it was just kind of like one of those things that was meant to happen."

Second baseman Taylor Featherston also pitched in with the leather, making consecutive diving plays to begin the sixth. Featherston dove to snag Skyler Stromsmoe's grounder and throw him out at first base. On the next play, he tracked down Chris Lofton's hard-hit grounder up the middle and tossed out the San Jose leadoff man after a diving back-handed effort.

"After that, I was just like, 'Man, I can't give up a hit now,'" Winkler said.

With Kandilas' help, he didn't. To the dismay of a few teammates, Winkler was pulled after seven innings and 102 pitches -- "A pitch count's a pitch count. I understood," the right-hander said -- giving way to Gonzalez, who struck out one in a perfect eighth.

Oberg entered for the ninth and recorded his 16th save, lowering his ERA to 1.69 with a perfect frame. The closer got three straight groundouts to end the game, including the wild, deflected rip by Bond to end the game.

The no-hitter was the second in the California League this season, as Lancaster hurled a combined no-no over Stockton on May 12. That one was the first in the league since 2007, and this season is the first in which two California League teams have tossed no-hitters since there were three hitless efforts in 1991.

The no-hitter is also the first for Modesto since Aug. 15, 1987, when the team blanked Stockton, 1-0.

The main story, though, belonged to Winkler, who continued a recent stretch of dominant performances. He's gone at least six innings and has allowed four or fewer hits in each of his past five starts, including a pair of one-hit efforts. The right-hander has an 0.80 ERA during that stretch with 39 strikeouts and seven walks in 33 2/3 innings.

Winkler told on June 15 that he was actually underwhelmed by his seven-inning, one-hit performance against Bakersfield. Monday was his first outing since then.

"I had times where I threw a little better," he said. "It had been 10 days since I had been on the mound. My command wasn't as good as I'd like it to be, but I'm a perfectionist and I always wish I could do better."

Winkler said after his previous start that he was somewhat thrown when his teammates began ignoring him around the middle innings. He said the treatment wasn't as extreme Monday, although once he completed his seven frames, he did stray from his normal post-start routine.

"I didn't take off my cleats or anything," he said. "Usually, I take my jersey off when I'm done because I'm all sweaty and stuff, but I didn't, and I wore my cleats the whole time.

"I felt like I had to do it. I couldn't jinx it."

Jake Seiner is a contributor to Follow him on Twitter at @Jake_Seiner.