Tribe starting pitcher Derek Lowe made it look easy, striking out three and allowing one hit in three solid innings of work. Eric Berger went three innings, struck out one and allowed two hits and no walks. Dale Dickerson, Cody Allen and Clayton Ehlert worked the final three innings, respectively.
In the top of the first, Indians shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera, who is rumored to have agreed to a two-year extension, showed why the Tribe covets his services by plating the game's first run on the first pitch of his first at-bat. Cabrera rocketed a home run over the left-field wall off Tribe prospect Scott Barnes, who will start the season at Triple-A Columbus, following seven innings of work in Spring Training. Barnes wore an Indians jersey while his Mudcats teammates wore their white home uniforms.
Designated hitter Travis Hafner pushed the lead to 2-0 by driving in Shin-Soo Choo from third on an error by Mudcats' left fielder Delvi Cid, who lost the ball in the sun. Choo walked and later stole third to get in scoring position.
Shelley Duncan, who led the Tribe with 19 RBIs in Spring Training, further quieted critics of Cleveland's supposed left-field void by crushing a no-doubt home run to left in the top of the fourth for a 3-0 edge.
"Shelley can provide some of that right-handed power that we've missed in our lineup," Indians manager Manny Acta said. "He did that for us last year and during Spring Training, and he's going to get his chance."
In the same inning, Jack Hannahan hit a double to deep left-center field, which advanced Jason Kipnis from first to third. Michael Brantley's grounder then scored Kipnis for a 4-0 lead.
Mudcats shortstop Ronny Rodriguez tallied the Zebulon team's first hit with a one-out single up the middle off Lowe in the third. Third baseman Giovanny Urshela added another hit for the Mudcats with a deep double to center field in the bottom of the fourth inning. Cid picked up Carolina's third and final hit.
With the outcome cemented, the Indians added more runs in the top of the ninth, with Beau Mills scoring on a Petit RBI single and Ryan Rohlinger going home for the game's last run on a Lou Marson RBI.
The affiliation with Carolina continues the Indians' partnership at the Class A Advanced level in the Carolina League, as the Mudcats replace the Kinston Indians.
"It's a great opportunity for us to start our affiliation here in Zebulon and start a new chapter for our A-ball guys," Acta said. "It's also good for our guys because they know where they're going and that they never forget where they came from. It's good to be humble once in awhile."