Jeff Gerbe and Casey Fien combined on a three-hitter as West Michigan blanked host South Bend, 4-0, on Saturday in Game 1 of the Midwest League semifinals.
Gerbe (1-0) scattered three singles and a walk with three strikeouts over a career-high 7 2/3 innings. Only one runner reached scoring position against the 23-year-old right-hander, who faced the minimum over the first four frames.
"It was really humid out there, so keeping my pitch count low helped me stay strong later on," said Gerbe, who had three consecutive seven-inning starts in June for the Whitecaps.
He also pointed to a pre-game adjustment in his mechanics as a reason for his success. "I made a slight adjustment in the bullpen with my pitching coach, Ray Burris," said Gerbe. "We worked on taking a little off the slider and it really helped me.
"The changeup was also good today," he added. "I got in a couple bad counts and was able to use it to get some pop-ups."
Yunesky Sanchez singled with two outs in the eighth off Gerbe and moved to second on Justin Brashear's walk. Fien came in and fanned Tyler Jones to end the threat, then tossed a perfect ninth for his second save of the playoffs.
"Every pitcher will tell you he wants to finish that inning himself, but when you have a guy like Casey coming in, you don't complain much," said Gerber, who attended Michigan State. "He has great stuff. He's a bulldog out of our bullpen."
Jeramy Laster stroked a two-run double in the third to give West Michigan a 3-0 lead. Santo De Leon added an RBI single in the sixth.
Silver Hawks starter Eric Butler (0-1) yielded four runs on seven hits, striking out two and walking four in five innings.