September 6, 2013
Yesterday the folks at Amazin Avenue asked me some questions about the Indians, including one about former Met prospect Scott Kazmir:
AA: The Mets face off against their former top prospect Scott Kazmir for the first time ever in Friday's game. Kazmir has resurrected his career in Cleveland this season. How has he done it and what does his stuff look like now? Do you think he can keep pitching well going forward or is this a flash in the pan?
LGT: [snip] Kazmir seems to be running on fumes now, as he's well past his innings totals from last year, so the Indians have been trying to give him extra days between starts whenever possible. In addition, they're being very careful with his pitch count, so I'd expect him to be pulled before he gets to 90 pitches (assuming that he's pitching well).
Well, at least I got that last part sorta right. Kazmir was removed after he had thrown 97 pitches, but he certainly didn't pitch like someone on fumes. Because Scott Kazmir had one of the best games of his career tonight. He went six shutout innings, allowing four hits, but struck out 12 batters and walked 0. The folks on the radio broadcast noted that the last time an Indians pitched struck out that many with no walks came in 1968 (the year before they lowered the mound) when Luis Tiant struck out an incredible 19 batters in 10 innings without walking a batter (it was good for a 99 Game Score).
Kazmir had some motivation tonight, as this was the first time he faced his old organization. He was drafted by the Mets in the first round of the 2002 draft, but just two years later was dealt to Tampa Bay for Victor Zambrano, a trade that was panned by just about everyone when it was made. Kazmir went on to have a nice career with the then-Devil Rays, while Zambrano fizzled out rather quickly. But motivation or not, Kazmir still needed good stuff, and of late he's scuffled as he approached 130 innings. And you shouldn't have been surprised that he's struggled lately, as he hasn't thrown that many major-league innings in a season since 2010. So this outing really shocked me, even though if you look back at it with hindsight I should have seen in coming. Not many Mets would have seen Kazmir before, the New York lineup was full of guys getting their first major-league experience, and the offense ranks second only to Atlanta in strikeouts.
Kazmir struck out the side in the first, the third, and the sixth, and those weren't just strikeouts coming with the game locked up. Until the fifth inning the Indians led only 2-0, and when Kazmir walked off the field for the final time the Indians only led 3-0. Up to that point the Tribe had generally turned rallies into runs, but only single runs. A Carlos Santana sac fly got the Indians on the board in the first, a Michael Bourn sac fly in the second added another run. Santana singled home the third run of the evening with two outs in the fifth. In each case the opportunity was there for the Indians to break the game open.
Finally the Indians would get that big hit. In the eighth inning, leading 4-1, the Indians loaded the bases with nobody out. Nick Swisher, who had earlier that day announced that he was sponsoring a fireworks night, provided some in-game fireworks by slugging his 8th career grand slam into the bleachers. That meant that the Indians would not need to use Chris Perez in the ninth, and also that they could actually breathe easy for an inning.
AL Games of Note:
- Baltimore (0.0) 4, White Sox 0 - Final
- Boston 12, Yankees 8 (-0.5) - Final
- Houston 3, Oakland 2 (+5.0) - 3rd Inning
- Tampa Bay 2 (+2.5), Seattle 1 - 3rd Inning
Roll Call (27 Commenters)
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