For the second straight night, an early wave of offense spelled defeat for the Pawtucket Red Sox, as the Indianapolis Indians topped the PawSox, 7-1, on a gorgeous Saturday night at McCoy Stadium in front of a packed ballpark.
On the seventh annual Star Wars Night at McCoy Stadium, the PawSox welcomed in a sell-out crowd of 11,443 - the 10th-largest in the 76-year history of McCoy Stadium and the first sellout of the 2018 campaign. The game was officially sold out 30 minutes before first pitch, and fans packed the grandstands and left-field berm, enjoying temperatures in the upper 70s before a lengthy fireworks show followed the ballgame.
Indianapolis, however, jumped on the PawSox in each of the first few innings and rode a five-run third to an early 7-0 advantage. Pawtucket did pound out 11 hits but left 11 on base, stranding at least one aboard in each of the first seven innings. After Pawtucket found itself entrenched in an early hole, the bullpen shined, as relievers Williams Jerez, Ty Buttrey and Robby Scott combined to strike out 14.
Pawtucket starter Josh Smith (L, 0-1) made his Red Sox organization debut and allowed five runs on seven hits in 2.2 innings. From there, however, Jerez punched out five in 2.1 innings. Buttrey then struck out four in two shutout innings, and Scott (1.61 ERA this season) fanned five over the final two innings of the ballgame. Buttrey, who has led International League relievers all season in K/9 IP ratio, hasn't allowed an earned run over his last seven outings and lowered his ERA to 2.36. Scott, for his part, has only yielded one run in his last 11 outings, posting 21 strikeouts in those 12.2 stanzas.
PawSox right fielder Cole Sturgeon (2-for-5) followed up Friday's three-hit effort with another multi-knock performance. Over his last 15 games, the former Louisville Cardinal is 18-for-58 (.340) with eight walks as well. Shortstop Tzu-Wei Lin extended his hitting streak to 12 games, the longest by a Pawtucket player this season. Left fielder Ramon Flores (2-for-4, 2B) added a pair of hits.
Indianapolis starter Tyler Eppler (W, 6-2) spun 5.2 shutout innings despite allowing seven hits and three walks.
The Indians climbed out to a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning on an RBI single from cleanup man and right fielder José Osuna.
In the second inning, Indianapolis designated hitter Erich Weiss led off with a solo homer to right field to double the advantage.
Indianapolis exploded in the third inning, grabbing those five runs on a Pawtucket throwing error, consecutive RBI doubles and a two-run homer from No. 8 hitter and first baseman Wyatt Mathisen.
The PawSox avoided the shutout in the bottom of the seventh on a bloop RBI single from first baseman Adam Lind, trimming the deficit to 7-1.
The PawSox conclude their three-game series with Indianapolis on Sunday at 1:35 p.m. Pawtucket left-hander Josh Smith (1-3, 3.26) is scheduled to oppose Indians lefty Brandon Waddell (1-1, 6.14). The game will be televised live on myRITV, and radio coverage on WHJJ (920 AM and 104.7 FM) and throughout the PawSox Radio Network begins with the pre-game show at 1:05 p.m.
The six-game homestand ends Sunday. Good seats are available, and fans can visit the McCoy Stadium box office, which is open Monday-Friday from 10 a.m. through 5 p.m., and during all home games. Fans can also call (401) 724-7300 or log on to PawSox.com for tickets.