CLEVELAND – He might not be the Scott Kazmir some Twins remember from his younger days. The problem on Friday night was that he was the Scott Kazmir they remembered from May.
The lefthander shut down the Twins for the second time this season as the Indians rolled to a 5-1 at Progressive Field, halting the Twins’ three-game winning streak. Kazmir held the Twins to one run over seven innings while striking out seven.
The Twins entered the game with a little momentum after scoring 22 runs while sweeping the White Sox in a three-game series. The only run the Twins got Friday was Brian Dozier’s solo shot off Kazmir in the sixth, his third home run in as many games.
Kazmir beat the Twins for the second time this season and now has a 2.08 ERA against them in two starts. He used to power fastballs reaching 95 miles per hour past hitters with regularity. On Friday, he waited until his final inning to touch 94 on the radar gun.
Was it the same Kazmir, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire?
“He still has velocity, but nothing like he did way back,” Gardenhire said. “He used to fire the ball all over the place, keep you off balance and keep you nervous, too. He’d miss here and there and then he would come in with the nasty pitch. Here, he has a little better command of himself on the mound right now.”
Twins lefthanded hitters were 1-for-14 against Kazmir, the only hit being a double by Joe Mauer in the first inning. Kazmir (4-4) shut down the next two batters to get out of that inning. The same thing happened in the seventh. Trevor Plouffe hit a one-out double. Kazmir painted the outside corner for strike three against Oswaldo Arcia, then painted the bottom of the strike zone to retire Clete Thomas.
“He looks like he’s pretty much back to where he was to me,” Twins first baseman Justin Morneau said.
Kazmir, 29, was 55-44 in six seasons with the Rays, but he took such a fall — he went 9-15 with the Angels in 2010 — that he spent last season pitching in the Atlantic League for the Sugar Land Skeeters and in the Puerto Rican winter league with Gigantes de Carolina.
The Indians signed him to a minor league contract with an invite to spring training. It looks like a wise move — especially since the Twins are in the same division.
Cleveland took a 1-0 lead in the second inning when Michael Brantley and Mark Reynolds hit back-to-back doubles.
The Indians’ second run came in the third when Drew Stubbs scored on a sacrifice fly to second baseman Dozier, who was in super-short center field when he caught a flare by Jason Kipnis. Dozier dropped the ball while making the exchange from glove to hand, allowing Stubbs to score from third.
Samuel Deduno (3-2) held the Indians into the seventh inning before giving up a leadoff single and walk before being removed. Cleveland got an RBI single by Stubbs and a two-run single by Kipnis to put the game away.
“We needed those clutch hits,” Dozier said. “At the same time [Kazmir] did a good job locating the ball, especially inside to righties.”