The Indians just keep the train rollin’. They do it with power. They do it with some speed. They do it with solid defense. They do it with a lock down bullpen. They do it with quality starting pitching.
Wait….what did I just say?
Yes, that’s right, they do it with solid starting pitching.
A night after Justin Masterson was sharp for six of his seven innings of work and the Indians caught a major break from the umpiring crew, they went for a four-game sweep of the Oakland Athletics with Scott Kazmir on the mound.
Kazmir’s story has been well documented. He went from 21-year old phenom to All-Star to broken down to out of baseball at 27. He spent 2012 in the Independent Leagues trying to remake himself. The Indians watched him throw this winter and decided to give him one last shot on a minor league deal. He came to Goodyear this Spring with an outside shot at becoming the Indians fifth starter. He ended up not only getting the job, but won it in a walk. Manager Terry Francona spent the month of March raving about him. Unfortunately the injury bug bit him and the start to his season was postponed by a DL trip.Upon his activation, the Indians badly needed Kazmir to be the guy they saw in Goodyear as the rotation started slow out of the gate. In his first start, three weeks ago in Houston, the Indians staked him to a ridiculous 14-0 lead after two innings. The long time sitting in the dugout did him no favors and he was far from sharp. But since then, Scott has really found himself.
“I just feel comfortable, and I feel confident out there,” Kazmir said. “And I feel like it’s going to get better and better.”
He went five innings, giving up two runs on five hits, striking out four in a loss to Kansas City, but looked more like the guy we saw in Goodyear. Both runs came on a opposite field homer from Salvador Perez that was on a pitch way out of the zone. His next time out, Kazmir went six innings, allowing two runs on five hits again, but he struck out seven without walking a batter. The offense provided him some more support and he was able to pick up his first win since 2010 as the lefty beat the Twins 7-3 five days ago. Again, it was one bad inning that got him.
As good as he was last Saturday, he was that much better Wednesday afternoon.
The 12:05 start time was no problem for Texan as he had it going early. For six innings, Kazmir was consistently hitting between 92-95 MPH with his fastball with pinpoint control. The usually patient A’s did their thing, making Kazmir throw a lot of pitches, but they had almost no success against him.
When his day was done, Kazmir struck out 10 Athletics without walking a single hitter. The lone run came on two out, Josh Donaldson solo homer in the sixth. He would K Luke Montz to end his day at 103 pitches. His 102nd hit 96 on the gun, his fastest pitch on the day.
Kazmir walked off a sunny splashed Progressive Field to a standing ovation.
“I don’t mean to get overly sentimental,” Francona said, “but I just think he’s kind of at peace where he’s at and enjoying it.”
In his last two starts, Kazmir has 17 strikeouts and no walks in 12 innings.
But it wasn’t just about Kazmir, though he was the biggest story of the day. The offense again continued to pound opposing pitching into submission. Old friend Bartolo Colon got the start for Oakland and was rudely greeted in the bottom of the first. Their approach was clear – go the other way on the hefty 39-year old. Michael Brantley opened the game with a sharp single to left. Jason Kipnis was next and he would take Colon deep to almost the same spot of the infamous Adam Rosales “double” a night before. This time it cleared the railing in left-center to put the Tribe on top 2-0.
An inning later Mark Reynolds led off with a double and came home on an RBI double from The Yanimal, Yan Gomes, who poked one, you guessed it – the other way – down the right field line. He advanced to third when Brandon Moss booted the ball in the corner. Gomes would score on an RBI single from Drew Stubbs. After another Brantley opposite field single, which moved the speedy Stubbs to third, Kipnis delivered his third RBI on a sacrifice fly to deep center.
Two innings into this one, the Tribe had five runs on six hits.
In the third, the home run brigade re-appeared with Nick Swisher’s solo shot to right. Colon would only last four innings, giving up six runs on seven hits.
“We stayed on Colon,” Francona said. “He’s got that terrific two-seamer, which he wants you to roll over and into a double play. We didn’t. We stayed in the middle of the field and barreled up a lot of balls.”
Enter reliever Evan Scribner in the fifth and the onslaught continued. Asdrubal Cabrera doubled to lead things off and with one out, Jason Giambi’s broken bat single brought him home. Up stepped The Sheriff, Mark Reynolds. The Tribe’s smokin’ hot DH took a Scribner fast ball over the wall in center for his 11th homer on the season. He now leads the American League. His 29 RBIs are good for fifth.
At 9-0, it was all but over, but there was one more highlight. Reliever Cody Allen came on in the eighth to replace the struggling Matt Albers who had loaded the bases with nobody out. All Allen did was strike out pinch hitters John Jaso and Derek Norris before getting Daric Barton on a fielder’s choice.
Lefty Scott Barnes pitched a scoreless ninth and for his trouble, was sent down after the game as center fielder Michael Bourn is ready for his return.
So the Indians have won 10 of 11, 13 of 17, and now head to Detroit for a big series with the first place Tigers. Things get started at 7:08 tomorrow night with Corey Kluber (2-1, 3.06 ERA) taking on Detroit’s Max Scherzer (4-0, 3.43 ERA)
(photo via Chuck Crow/The Plain Dealer)