Columbus pitching coach Tony Arnold has worked with Toru Murata for the past couple years, so he has a pretty good handle on what the right-hander is capable of.
Arnold knows he typically isn't as bad as he was against Indianapolis over the weekend, but he's as equally aware that he probably won't flirt with no-hitters either.
On Thursday, it was more of the latter as Murata faced the minimum through five innings, lost his no-hit bid in the sixth and went on to record his first career Triple-A win. He gave up a pair of singles and two walks while striking out two batters over seven scoreless innings to help Columbus Clippers to an 8-1 victory over the Louisville Bats at Louisville Slugger Field.
"That last outing was not the norm. His delivery was out of sync, but usually he's locked in and he knows what he has to do," Arnold said. "You don't get caught up with the last outing. He's not taking no-hitters into the sixth or seventh every night, but he is always competitive."
Murata (1-2) kept the Bats out of the hit column through five frames, but Tucker Barnhart broke up his bid with a base hit to left field. Neftali Soto collected the Bats' only other hit off the right-hander -- a two-out single to left in the seventh -- but he was stranded on second base.
"This is what he's capable of when he commands his fastball," Arnold said. "He located it well down in the zone and kept hitters off balance with his other pitches. I didn't hear anybody talking about [the no-hitter], but I knew he had one going and that he had retired them in order through the fifth.
"First-pitch fastball, he left it over the middle of the plate and [Barnhart] hit it through the shortstop-third base hole."
Entering Thursday, Murata was 0-2 with a 6.40 ERA in seven International League outings, including five starts, this year.
"He was really good," Columbus manager Chris Tremie said. "He pounded the zone with all of his pitches and he kept the ball down. We got out to an early lead and he did a fantastic job not letting them creep back into the game. To get seven scoreless outings was outstanding.
"When he pitches and hits his spots, he's really effective. When he's not doing that and he leaves the ball up, that's when he gets hit around a little bit. He was really good tonight locating all four pitches, he threw a lot of curveballs for strikes and mixed it up and kept them off balance."
Murata, who threw 57 of 87 pitches for strikes and he induced 10 ground-ball outs, was coming off his worst outing of the season in which he allowed nine runs on 11 hits -- including five home runs -- over 4 2/3 innings against Indianapolis on Saturday. But staked to an early 6-0 lead, Murata was able to focus on pounding the zone.
"It helped me. I was relaxed. I throw just strikes," Murata said. "Today, I can throw strikes. Last time, I can't throw a strike. Behind in the count, I throw fastballs."
The 29-year-old native of Japan has seen time at Triple-A in each of the past three years, including two appearances in 2012 and five more in 2013. Prior to his callup, Murata was 5-3 with a 4.81 ERA in 12 Eastern League games, including seven starts, for the Double-A Akron RubberDucks. Across the two levels, Murata has struck out 59 batters and issued 22 walks.
Columbus right fielder Carlos Moncrief was 2-for-4 with a three-run homer and five RBIs and center fielder Matt Carson and first baseman Audy Ciriaco added solo homers.