In the first 5 minutes Wednesday night at Modern Woodmen Park, West Michigan did enough to secure a 4-0 victory over the Quad-Cities River Bandits.
That has been the story of the Bandits' last week, their last month, and it has been the story of their season: close enough to contend.
"I thought maybe after that 15-run game in Dayton (last Friday), that maybe we would get things going," Bandits manager Steve Dillard said of his team's offense. "The next day, we get shut out on two soft hits."
The Bandits (10-14) were shut out on five hits, and not all of them were soft, but like so many games before, the hits couldn't come in a bunch.
"We hit some balls good, but we need better at-bats with guys on base," Dillard said. "One night, we were 0-for-16 with runners one night over there in the trip."
No particular spot in the order stood out any better - or in any worse a position - than anyone else. The River Bandits' top three batters were 1-for-11 with a walk and a ninth-inning double.
It only took one big Whitecaps swing to decide things, as Ben Guez hit his eighth home run of the season, a three-run shot that cleared the right-field fence in the first inning.
West Michigan's only other run also came against Bandits starter Miguel Tapia, in the fourth, but it was unearned, thanks to a pair of base hits and throwing error from Matt Carpenter.
If there was a bright spot in the game for Quad-Cities, it was another solid effort from a bullpen that hasn't had much to cheer about until recently.
Relievers Adam Veres, Joel Pichardo and David Carpenter did a sparkling job in relief, allowing just one hit - a ball lost in the lights in the eighth inning, giving Whitecap Jordan Lennerton his third hit of the game - and striking out six in four innings of work.
"We're just kind of snakebit early in the game," Dillard said. "But the bullpen's been throwing pretty good. It's done a good job overall. Our pitching on the road trip wasn't that bad, but when you don't score runs, your pitcher has to shut them down."
The two times the Banidts had two hits in an inning - the third and the eighth - West Michigan was able to shut them down. The Bandits had two on and nobody out in the bottom of the third after a double by Jay Edwards and a short single by Travis Mitchell, but winning pitcher Brandon Hamilton (4-3) was able to get out of the jam with two short flyouts that couldn't advance Edwards from second and a groundout to end the inning.
"But you look at baseball everywhere and it seems like an epidemic. Even the Cardinals," Dillard said. "Everybody's having the same thing, everybody's having trouble."
WEST MICHIGAN 4, QUAD-CITIES 0
SON SHINING: River Bandits manager Steve Dillard was able to take in - via the Internet - a good chunk of son Tim's 10th win of the season for the Nashville Sounds on Wednesday night. The younger Dillard fired a one-hitter and added a base hit as Nashville defeated Memphis 5-1.
TATTOO YOU: The River Bandits rescheduled Wednesday's Tattoo Night promotion to Thursday, Sept. 3, in conjunction with local shop Bill's Garage and Tattoo Emporium. Fans can receive a River Bandit logo on that night; recipients will net 2010 berm season tickets of their choice.
BETTER FINISH: After giving up a three-run, first-inning home run to Ben Guez in the top of the first, River Bandits starting pitcher Miguel Tapia righted the ship rather nicely, allowing three hits after the first and just one unearned run.
NEXT: West Michigan at Quad-Cities, 7 p.m., today.