Indians 10 Mariners 1: Kazmir’s dominant run continues as offense awakens

Scott Kazmir

Scott KazmirWe have been waiting for the offense to wake up and they finally did. The hot and cold streaks are no doubt frustrating. It is games like this one where the Wahoos scored 10 runs on 13 hits, where you scratch your head at how they can be so anemic at times. A day after a second straight blunder-filled one run loss, the angry Indians took their frustrations out on Mariners left-hander Joe Saunders.

From the jump, the caught Saunders off guard. Leadoff man Michael Bourn put down a perfect bunt single. Nick Swisher, who seems to have taken a liking to the two spot, worked a walk. Jason Kipnis decided to bunt on his own, looking for a base hit. Instead it turned into a sacrifice. New cleanup man Asdrubal Cabrera doubled to the wall in center, driving in Bourn and Swisher, starting a huge day for the offense. Carlos Santana kept the line moving with a ground rule double, scoring Cabrera. The inning ended with, surprise, a Mark Reynolds K, but the Mariners were put on notice. The Indians were not messing around in this one.

They would add a fourth run on a second Santana RBI double in the third.

At the end of the fourth, the Tribe led 4-1, but probably should have doubled that lead. As we have seen so many times since the break, several other opportunities went by the wayside. Like in the second Yan Gomes led off with a double. After a Drew Stubbs strike out, Michael Bourn walked, but the inning ended on a Swisher double play ball. In the fourth, Gomes and Stubbs started the frame with back to back singles. Swisher’s one out single loaded the bases, but Kipnis and Cabrera couldn’t bring home the runners.

None of the blown chances would matter, because Scott Kazmir was flat out dominating like Kramer in the kids karate class. For all of the misses GM Chris Antonetti has had with the minor league contract last chance guys, he has to be credited with taking a shot with Kazmir. Like he has done in his past six starts, the lefty has not just pitched well, he has looked like a borderline ace. Wednesday may have been the finest start of them all.

For eight innings, the Mariners had zero answer for Kazmir, coming up with just one hit – a fifth inning single by Justin Smoak. The one run that came across was thanks to yet another horrific Tribe error, one of two on the day. Cabrera threw away an easy inning ending force play to second in the second inning. Other than that, Seattle couldn’t touch Kazmir. He departed after eight innings. His final line – eight innings, one hit, zero earned runs, seven strikeouts, and two walks on 103 pitches.

“Everything is feeling good out there,” he said. “I’m getting ahead in the count. I’m able to throw my secondary pitch for strikes and bury them when I need to for strikeouts.”

The offense gave Kaz more than enough cushion, piling on in the fifth inning with two out and nobody on. Reynolds kept the inning alive with a sharp single. After Gomes walked – his third time reaching base in three plate appearances – acting skipper Robbie Thompson emerged from the dugout and called for right-hander Hector Noesi. He immediately walked Stubbs to load the bases, bringing Bourn to the plate. The Tribe’s center fielder worked a full count before depositing a Noesi pitch over the center field fence for his first career grand slam, busting the game wide open.

Said Bourn: “I saw a good pitch out of his (Noesi’s) hand and just put the barrel on the ball. I wasn’t really trying to do too much, but I guess that’s when things happen.”

They would add two more runs in support of Kazmir, highlighted by Cabrera’s moon shot solo blast in the sixth.

“That was much-needed and a good day,” Francona said. “It’s just nice to bounce back, because we had a couple tough ones. It was good to see our guys see some results.”

It has been a tough start to the “second half” but the starting pitching continues to keep the Indians in every single game. The craziest stat (h/t to @MartinRickman) is the fact that the Indians have outscored their opponents 25-14 since the break, yet have lost four of six. Meanwhile the Gomes/Kazmir battery continues to be the winning combination. In Kazmir’s last seven starts – all caught by The Yanimal – he is 3-0 with a 1.60 ERA and a 0.78 WHIP.

“We have good communication,” said Gomes. “We’re in a relationship right now where we can yell at each other (in good fun). We just seem to be able to know what each other is thinking.”

Gomes caught back to back games in this series and came through with four hits, including a two-run homer. With Reynolds continuing to look like a black hole in the lineup, expect to see more of Gomes catching with Santana either at DH or at first.

“We have a pretty good catcher right now (Santana), but Gomes is going to be an everyday catcher,” said Francona. “If we have a problem where we have two starting catchers, good for us, because catching is hard to find.”

The Tribe will now get an off day to fly back across the country and await the AL West powerhouse Texas Rangers this weekend at Progressive Field. The good news is that they miss the newly acquired Matt Garza, who pitched against the Yankees Wednesday night. Things will get started Friday with the Indians sending Corey Kluber (7-5, 3.69 ERA) out to face Texas phenom Martin Perez (3-3, 3.40 ERA)

(photo via PD wire services)

  • mgbode

    i don’t like losing 2 1-run games, then blowing them out in the last game. it hurts.

  • nj0

    A win is a win. Yesterday is over.

  • woofersus

    Kazmir has had some ups and downs this year (although a couple of his “bad” starts in June were really decent starts in which not a single runner was stranded by the bullpen after he left) but over his past 7 starts he’s rivaled any pitcher in baseball. 1.60 and 0.78 is about as dominant as you can be. I don’t expect him to keep that kind of level up for the rest of the season, but the answer to the question “can he regain his form and be a top MLB pitcher ever again,” is clearly yes. He’s there right now.

    If he keeps pitching anywhere near this well down the stretch, he will price himself right out of town, unfortunately.

  • woofersus

    Feels a lot better ending the series on the blowout than the other way around, though.

  • 5KMD

    “like Kramer in the kids karate class”
    Completely off topic but here goes. I was recently down at the sports section of Pittsburgh’s science center with my wife and 3 boys. They have a place where you can time how long you can basically hold a chin up. So I get in line with a bunch of 5-6 year olds.
    I destroy them! Hold it for 73 seconds (which is very hard by the way).
    As my arms are shaking I see my wife shaking her head in embarrassment. I just give her a nod and say, “We’re all at the same skill level Jerry.”
    She didn’t get it.

  • JNeids

    Seinfeld is never off topic.

  • boomhauertjs

    For me the most frustrating thing this season has been the offense because they’re so inconsistent. I guess that should be expected with Team Streak.

  • mgbode

    I know, but I’m still allowed to be frustrated by it :)

  • Harv 21

    Kazmir’s agent looks prescient for refusing the Tribe’s request for a second year option. Not sure how he knew, but good for him and his client. Antonetti better not be giving away any promising minor-league starters for a 2-month rental and they’re going to have to double down on trying to fix Carrasco between the ears for next year.

  • Vindictive_Pat

    I’m going to be very sad when Scott Kazmir ditches us for a prettier team w/ more money. I’m going to feel like the wife who was there for Lance Armstrong while he recovered from cancer only to see him leave for the prettier Sheryl Crow after he got healthy. But for right now, I’m definitely enjoying being with the real Kazmir… it’s a lot of fun!

  • Jaker

    4 close losses and 2 blowout wins. Yes we have outscored the opponent, but we need to be more consistent. “Team Streak” won’t make the playoffs, but a consistent Tribe has a solid shot. Just need to put it all together

  • Jaker

    Shut up Dorn

  • Harv 21

    If we’re in the division race in September, I’d hope Francona would go all college-coach-in-College-World-Series and saddle him up. Screw the monitoring of his innings. If he’s leaving, let’s use each other. We’re in it to win it. You don’t know if we’ll be close again next year.

  • Jason Hurley

    But, that’s what we look for with these deals – a cheap guy who plays well. If we’re in contention, it’s great because we have a good player (who prices himself out of town at the end of the year). If we fell out, we’d have a great trade asset.
    If he stinks (like Dice-K)? Oh well.

  • Kevin Huyghe

    I’m loving the way he is pitching so much that yesterday I nearly proclaimed “We should sign him for 3 years right now!”.. then I remembered that back at the end of April I said “We should sign Mark Reynolds for 3 years right now!” and I shut down the Twitter machine and stepped away from the smartphone…

  • Garry_Owen

    Just don’t understand why they choose to have a game like that while I’m at work. Very inconsiderate.

  • Vindictive_Pat

    I found it to be the opposite, G_O! I got to listen to the game on the radio while I pretended to do work… it was a heavenly Humpday!

  • Garry_Owen

    That sounds like a Ben & Jerry’s flavor (but one of those that you’re not really sure you want to try).

  • Vindictive_Pat

    Hmmm… I could see it being an experimental mixture of coffee ice cream with coconut and gummy camels, and I would quickly pass it over for Cookies & Milk.

  • woofersus

    It’s certainly a good problem to have. It’s just a little disappointing to know we aren’t probably going to be able to afford to keep him and probably not the team who will benefit the most from his comeback over the next three years or so. Who knows, though. Maybe he’ll want to stick around because of Callaway and Tito and take a little less to be here. I doubt it, but I can dream a little.

  • JacobWFNY

    Calling Martin Perez a phenom is a bit of an over-statement, IMO. Yes, he’s one of the rare still-only-22-year-old prospects to ever be ranked in Baseball America’s top 100 for five straight years (!!). But his numbers just aren’t that impressive.

    Career Double-A: 216.1 IP, 4.95 ERA, 8.3 K/9, 3.9 BB/9
    Career Triple-A: 212.0 IP, 4.33 ERA, 5.7 K/9, 3.6 BB/9
    Career MLB: 80.1 IP, 4.37 ERA, 5.6 K/9, 2.9 BB/9

    Sure, it seems based on his youth and prospect standing and impressive experience for his age that he should carve out a long-term MLB career somehow. But 200 innings in Triple-A with a K/9 under 6? That’s pretty mediocre.

  • mgbode

    if Callaway is as good as we hope, then it won’t matter. He’ll go make his big $$ elsewhere and pitchers like him will view us as a rehab destination.

    look at all the pitchers that the Rangers have let get away. yet, outside of injuries, they keep cranking out more that end up getting big money. Mike Maddux is big part of that success.

  • Jason Hurley

    I’m guessing knowing how fleeting MLB chances can be, he’s going to try to make as much cash as possible. I can’t blame him – he’s really fortunate to be in the position he’s in.

  • Harv 21

    “Maybe he’ll want to stick around because of Callaway and Tito and take a little less to be here.”

    You owe me the coffee lost in my spit take. The dude’s career was derailed as he entered his prime and he was this close to having received his last MLB check. Nah, like Shaun Livingston in the NBA, once a still-young player has a near-career death experience they seek the highest dollar. Cuz they know they don’t know if they’ll be playing tomorrow and get another contract. Unless he has a setback before season’s end, some team will open their big wallet thinking next year may be a feel-good Cy Young type year.

  • Harv 21

    beat me to it.

  • Steve

    The vast majority of the work done to build himself back up was before he started working with Callaway. The Tribe didn’t offer him a contract until he started hitting the mid 90s over the winter

  • Steve

    Was an option ever on the table? Kazmir got a minor league contract. Both sides were fully aware of the boom or bust possibility.

  • Steve

    And burn your bridges with upcoming FA pitchers? You can only get away with that in college (and high school) because you have a lot more leverage over the players.

  • Steve

    Now, if he offers to pull a Sabathia, and say that he’ll put his team on his back and go every three days, sure, why not. But I’d have to guess at this point that Kazmir will want to set himself up to cash in on his recovery.

  • Harv 21

    based what I said on what Pluto recently reported, either on his most recent podcast or in his Sunday written piece, can’t remember which. I had never heard it before.

  • woofersus

    Yes, he did most of the work himself, but being comfortable with a set of coaches and a situation where you really had success for the first time in a long time has to mean something. His numbers in winter ball weren’t exactly impressive other than the ones on the radar gun. If he was mowing guys down he would have gotten a major league contract. Like I said, I doubt it, and the Indians would have to make a reasonably competitive offer, (and I’m not sure they can) but it wouldn’t be shocking for him to have a preference of staying put.

  • woofersus

    That’s true, but there’s something to be said for being comfortable in a certain environment. He’s certainly borne more than his fair share of pressure during his 20’s. The Indians would have to make a competitive offer, and I’m not sure they can, but it’s not clear cut that he would just take the highest bid without question. And I’m sure he wants to get paid (who wouldn’t?) but I’m not talking about 2yrs, 10 million vs. 4yrs, 50 million. It would have to be closer than that. It remains to be seen how risky he looks by the end of the year.

  • Harv 21

    Obviously, it has to be mutual but Kazmir has every reason to volunteer. For the same reason Sabathia did. If he holds up he might be looking at upper 8 figures, guaranteed. My point is that Francona appears to be an ultimate players’ manager. Saddling Kazmir won’t change that. I just want him to make this a relationship beneficial both ways, with each side bearing some risk.

  • Steve

    Interesting. There’s nothing lost in offering a 2nd year option for the Tribe, but I’d have to guess that they never planned on getting it.

  • Steve

    Kazmir has been averaging about 5.5 innings per start. Sabathia went over 7 IP a start that year. Sabathia was proven to be a workhorse who could hold up. Kazmir is on pace to get 160 IP this year. The difference is huge, and I don’t think there’s any reason to believe he can do it.