Despite five home runs by the Columbus Clippers, the Indianapolis Indians took home an 8-6 victory on Wednesday night at Huntington Park thanks to a strong seven strikeout effort from starting pitcher Justin Wilson and two solo bombs of their own from right fielder Brandon Boggs and shortstop Jordy Mercer.
After struggling with his control in his first start of the season, Wilson (6.2 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 R, 0 BB, 7 SO) had no such issues on Tuesday night as he did not walk a batter, while striking out seven over 6.2 innings of work to earn the victory and improve to 1-1 on the season. Columbus starter Kevin Slowey (7.2 IP, 7 H, 5 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 5 SO) also turned in a solid effort, but was the victim of key defensive miscues and ultimately was handed the loss to fall to 1-1.
The Indians jumped out to an early advantage with three runs in the third thanks to those two Columbus miscues as well as a wild pitch and a sacrifice fly from 2B Brian Friday. The Indians then pushed their lead to five as Boggs belted his team-leading third home run of the season to lead off the fourth and Mercer broke out of a mini-slump by connecting on his first home run of 2012 with two outs in the fifth.
The beginning of the Columbus power surge would however keep things close, starting with the only blemish against Wilson in a fifth inning solo home run off the bat of RF Chad Huffman. The Columbus offensive outburst continued with back-to-back two-out solo shots from SS Gregorio Petit and CF Trevor Crowe off the Tribe bullpen in the bottom of the eighth to draw the Clippers with-in two at 5-3.
The Tribe would respond to the power surge with what turned out to be three key insurance runs in the top of the ninth. C Eric Fryer, who entered the contest with the best batting average for any catcher in the International League, led off the final frame with a double to right.
3B Jeremy Farrell then pushed Fryer to third with an infield single, before LF Gorkys Hernandez brought him plateward with a base hit to center. CF Starling Marte followed with a base hit to load the bases and extend his hitting streak to six games, leading to a bases loaded walk from Mercer and wild pitch that pushed across what turned out to be the Tribe’s two tally final advantage.
Three insurance scores proved to be key for the Indians as their ninth inning struggles continued starting with a mammoth shot off the bat of LF Matt LaPorta to lead-off the bottom of the ninth. Then following a walk to 1B Russ Canzler, 3B Lonnie Chisenhall cut the Indians advantage to two with the Clippers fifth roundtripper of the night, a two-run blast to right field.
Yet even after the early struggles in the final frame, Tribe reliever Bryan Morris would settle down and strike out the next three batters he faced to give the Indians the 8-6 victory. Despite serving up the three scores, Morris continues to be a dominating force on the mound this season for Indianapolis as he has now recorded all eight of his outs by way of the strikeout.
Indianapolis and Columbus now wrap up their four-game series with the Indians first day game of the season at 11:35 a.m. on Thursday morning. LHP Jeff Locke is expected to toe the rubber for the Indians, while the Clippers are scheduled to counter with RHP Corey Kluber.