As starter Steve Gruver agonized through 3 2/3 rough innings Wednesday night, Tim Shibuya knew exactly how he felt.
While the Beloit Snappers and Gruver had a truly terrible day at the office, losing to the Peoria Chiefs 7-1, Shibuya’s effort was probably the lone bright spot at Pohlman Field.
Well, his pitching and the fact Kane County lost in 10 innings, dropping the Snappers’ magic number for qualifying for the Midwest League playoffs to just one game.
Back on May 31, Shibuya had a nightmarish start at Quad Cities, allowing 12 runs on 10 hits — all in the first inning.
He only retired two batters in the 20-3 loss — the Snappers’ worst of the season.
“I’d never had a game like that before,” the 6-foot-1 right-hander from Jackson, Wyo.., said. “They hit bad pitches. They hit good pitches. They hit bloopers, ropes, singles, doubles, homers. They hit everything.”
It happened so fast, too.
“We wanted to get Tim out of there, but we didn’t even get a chance to warm up a reliever,” Pitching Coach Gary Lucas said. “He only threw 38 pitches. It was bang, bang, bang. It was just a freak thing.”
Shibuya was told to put the outing behind him, much like Gruver (5-5) will be told to remember what he was doing right in winning his previous two starts.
But the truth was that after throwing a shutout against Clinton May 15, Shibuya had struggled in two starts prior to getting bombed by the Bandits. Another poor start at Wisconsin on June 4 hiked his earned run average to 5.93 and sent him to the bullpen.
Wednesday night’s contest was perfect for rebuilding some confidence.
“We felt we had to give him a break and let him regroup,” Lucas said. “Tim is the kind of kid who can do that. We had him make some adjustments and we gave him a slider that gives him more sink and more movement. He was very receptive and it helped him have the success he had tonight.
“To be honest, we haven’t been real good defensively behind him, either. We’ve put him in some tough spots.”
The Chiefs came into the series hot, winners of six straight games. They lost to Beloit 5-4 on Tuesday night, but grabbed control early Wednesday with three first-inning runs off Gruver. An error by Miguel Sano allowed the first run to score and Javier Baez and Yasiel Balaguert tacked on RBI singles.
Balaguert hit a no-doubt solo homer in the third for a 4-0 lead and the Chiefs made it 6-0 with a pair of runs in the fourth. Shibuya came on to finish off that inning with an out and pitched two more perfect innings with two strikeouts.
“Every day is a new day,” Shibuya said. “I was making good pitches and (catcher Matt) Koch and I were on the same page.”
Shibuya did make the play of the game when he charged to field a swinging bunt near the third base line by Balaguert and quickly threw an accurate off-balance throw to first baseman Adam Bryant for the outfield.
“You won’t see a pitcher make a better play,” Lucas said. “Tim can really field his position.”
Peoria’s Dustin Geiger did push it to 7-0 with a solo blast off Ryan O’Rourke in the seventh.
Beloit, outhit 10-1 at one point, finally got on the scoreboard in the bottom of the seventh inning. J.D. Williams doubled to center off Jose Rosario (6-5) with one out and scored on A.J. Pettersen’s single to right. Pettersen is 3-for-7 in the series with three RBIs and a run scored.
The Snappers were outhit 12-5.
Rosario (6-5) allowed only three hits and one run in 6 1/3 innings. Austin Reed pitched 1 2/3 innings and Hunter Cervenka worked a scoreless ninth.
• NOTES: Beloit can not only win the series tonight at 7, it can clinch a playoff berth in the process. Tyler Jones (0-2, 2.37 ERA) will take the mound for the Snappers against Kyler Burke (2-2, 2.13) for Peoria... Roving Twins instructor Paul Molitor is spending part of the homestand helping out the Snappers. ...The Snappers are asking fans stand by Snappy in the Mascot Mania Tournament. Snappy is currently facing Orbit of the Albuquerque Isotopes in the Final Four. Fans can help by voting at http://www.milb.com/milb/fans/mascot_mania/y2012/index.jsp.