COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Indianapolis left fielder John Bowker and designated hitter Steve Pearce each blasted a solo home run, while the Indians plated a run in each of the first five innings and got two key insurance runs late to top the Columbus Clippers 7-4 on Thursday night at Huntington Park.
With the win Indianapolis improves to 48-45 on the season, while the loss drops Columbus to 58-34. The victory also gives the Tribe a 1-0 lead in the four-game set, while the Clippers maintain an 8-4 lead in the season series.
Bowker showed no rust coming off the All-Star break, launching a solo home run off the scoreboard in right center in the first to give Indianapolis an early 1-0 advantage. Bowker's blast was his tenth of the year, as well as eighth in his last 23 contests.
The Clippers however answered back with a score in the bottom half of the inning. CF Tim Fedroff led off with a single, before coming home on SS Jason Donald's double to left center off the wall to draw the contest at 1-1.
The tie would be short-lived however, as the Tribe plated a tally in the second. All-Star 1B Matt Hague singled and then advanced to second on C Dusty Brown's base knock before RF Miles Durham brought home Hague with an infield single up the middle to again give the Indians a one-run lead.
It would then be Hague's turn to drive in a score in the next inning to increase the margin to two. Bowker singled to right and then moved to second when 3B Pedro Alvarez drew a base-on-balls before coming home when Hague doubled to left.
The Clippers however, subsequently narrowed the deficit back to one in their half of the third. Fedroff led off the frame with a single and went to third on 2B Cord Phelps' base hit, before scoring when Donald bounced into a double play.
Another Indians tally would then come plateward for their fourth consecutive run-scoring inning. CF Gorkys Hernandez singled, stole second and then went to third when 2B Corey Wimberly reached on an error, before scoring when Mercer grounded into a fielder's choice to increasing the lead again to two.
The Tribe would then follow with another run in the fifth to push ahead 5-2 when Pearce, who was with the Indians on a Major League Rehab Assignment, left the yard. The roundtripper was his first for the Tribe and second overall this year, with his other coming on May 25 for Pittsburgh.
Columbus would make it a one-run game once again in the seventh by plating two runs. Matt McBride led off with an infield single before Fedroff walked and Phelps singled to load the bases with one out. Donald would then draw a free pass to bring in McBride, while an RBI groundout by Chad Huffman plated Fedroff to squeeze the Tribe's cushion to a run.
Indianapolis however would counter by adding a pair of insurance runs in the eighth to sink the Clippers' comeback hopes. Brown singled and then got to second when Hernandez reached on an error, before scoring on an RBI base hit to left from Wimberly. Hernandez would come across later in the inning on a passed ball to close the scoring for the Indians.
Bowker (3-for-4, 2 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 SB), Hague (2-for-3, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 RBI) and Brown (2-for-4, 1 R) posted multi-hit efforts for the Indians, while Fedroff (2-for-3, 3 R, 1 BB), Phelps (2-for-4) and Donald (2-for-3, 1 2B, 2 RBI, 2 BB) each recorded two base knocks for Columbus.
Indianapolis starter Rudy Owens (5.1 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 7 SO) earned the win to improve to 7-6 after allowing just two earned runs on five hits in addition to seven strikeouts, while Steven Jackson and Tim Wood combined for 2.2 scoreless frames. Jackson (1.2 IP, 1 BB) recorded his third hold, while Wood (1.0 IP, 1 H, 1 BB, 1 SO) notched his team-leading 15th save of the year.
Columbus LHP David Huff (3.0 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 3 SO) suffered the loss to fall to 8-3 after surrendering three earned runs on six hits in his three frames. It was the southpaw's first defeat since May 13, when Huff suffered the loss against Indianapolis at Victory Field.
The Indians continue their four-game series with the Clippers Friday night at 7:05 p.m. RHP Brad Lincoln is scheduled to take the mound for Indianapolis, while Columbus is expected to counter Lincoln with RHP Corey Kluber.
The contest will be carried on WNDE 1260 AM, WNDE.com and via iheartradio, a mobile application for iPhone, Blackberry and Android phones, with Howard Kellman and Scott McCauley on the call. The pre-game show begins at 6:45 p.m.
Post-game quotes -- LF John Bowker
(on getting off to a good start following the All-Star break)
"It's always good to get off to a good start. We were playing well going into the break and I think we took the break to get some rest and start out the second half with some energy."
(on his first inning home run)
"I faced him (Columbus starter David Huff) once last year and then once this year so I became more familiar with him. Going into the game and at bat I know what he features. Basically got a pitch and a fastball to hit."
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.