ST. LOUIS — The last time Missouri right-handed pitcher Peter Fairbanks started, he threw just 2 1/3 innings and gave up five runs to Missouri State. On Wednesday at Busch Stadium, the Webster Groves native rose to the occasion.
Fairbanks threw eight innings out of the bullpen, allowing just four hits while leading Missouri to a 5-2 win over Illinois.
Although Fairbanks pitched most of the game, it was John Miles who started for the Tigers. Fairbanks was previously scheduled to start, but the coaching staff wanted to give Miles, the Tigers’ regular Saturday starting pitcher, some extra work and preferred to keep him in the starting-game rhythm. Miles threw one inning before Fairbanks came in.
In the second inning, Fairbanks allowed an RBI single to Illinois third baseman Ryne Roper but induced a double play to end the inning.
From the third inning on, though, the Illini could scarcely touch Fairbanks.
He finished his throwing motion better than he did against Missouri State, which helped him keep the ball low in the strike zone. He combined that with generally strong command of his fastball and some assorted sliders and changeups. Fairbanks struck out just three hitters in his outing but didn't walk anyone.
He induced 11 groundouts, and when Illinois put the ball in the air, the spacious outfield of the stadium kept it within the reach of Missouri's outfielders.
"I was in a pretty good flow, sticking with what coach (Matt) Hobbs and DK (catcher Dylan Kelly) were calling," Fairbanks said. "I don't think I shook them off the whole game."
The Tigers scored two runs in both the fourth and fifth innings. Kelly drove home both of the runs in the fifth with a double into the left-center gap that barely escaped the reach of Illini center fielder Will Krug.
Missouri coach Tim Jamieson said it was the best he has seen Fairbanks throw and the positive effects go beyond just getting the win.
"It was a great outing," Jamieson said. "For him, for us, and then for the bullpen, for the weekend."
Fairbanks' second-inning trip to the mound was the only time the left-field bullpen's door swung open Wednesday. Instead, he kept coming out of the dugout and shutting the Illini down with efficiency. Fairbanks got plenty of time on the pitching mound of his hometown MLB club.
"It's the best one you'll ever pitch on, I can tell you that much," Fairbanks said of the Busch Stadium mound.