June 21, 2013
The rotation has progressed to the point where anything the Indians get from Scott Kazmir is a bonus. Last night Kazmir gave the Indians a massive bonus, twirling seven rather easy innings, setting the stage for a relatively easy 5-1 win.
Kazmir has been an up-and-down pitcher this season, which is rather understandable, as his only 2012 innings came in in the Atlantic League. At times he's looked fantastic, other times rather bad, but even in his bad outings you saw the potential that's still there. Last time out, he only lasted 2.2 innings, allowing three home runs to a Nationals lineup that is one of the poorest offensive clubs in the majors. That led to scattered chatter about moving Scott Kazmir to the bullpen in an effort to both remove him from the rotation and at the same time fix what has been a tactical bullpen hole. Well, if Zach McAllister comes back from the DL soon, and Carlos Carrasco is pitching well, the Indians will be facing a conundrum, but a good conundrum it will be. But keep this in mind: Zach McAllister hasn't pitched more than 125 innings in a major-league season, Corey Kluber hasn't pitched more than 65.1 major-league innings in a season, and Carlos Carrasco hasn't pitched more than 124.2 major-league innings (and didn't pitch at all last season). Add in Scott Kazmir's 2012 wanderings, and you have a rotation that's going to need to be filled by more than five starters. And Kazmir should be part of that.
Last night Kazmir was an efficient pitcher, as opposed to last time out, when he really struggled to put batters away. He allowed his share of hard-hit balls, but instead of responding by trying to be more perfect with his pitches, he shrugged off the rockets and continued to be aggressive in the strike zone. It certainly helped that his command was excellent, but the strategy deserves credit as well. It wasn't until his last inning that things slowed down a bit, and after an injury scare, he recovered to strike out the last two batters of the seventh.
You could say many of things said about Kazmir about Samuel Deduno. The Minnesota starter was also aggressive in the strike zone, walking only one Indian through six innings. Prior to the seventh inning, he had allowed two runs, though neither came in particularly extended threats (although the Indians ran themselves out of one in the second when Mark Reynolds got tagged out twice trying to extend an RBI single into a double). But then Deduno allowed the first two runners to reach in the seventh, and Ron Gardenhire hooked him. Josh Roenicke allowed the first runner to score on a Drew Stubbs single, and Brian Duensing allowed the second runner plus one of Roenicke's to score on a Jason Kipnis bloop single. So Deduno was charged with four runs in six innings.
Now leading 5-1, the Indians bullpen could work with a net. Even with the four-run lead, Joe Smith and Vinnie Pestano pitched the eighth and ninth innings. Both pitchers retired the side in order, and finished off the Indians' seventh win in nine games. They are now 3.0 games behind the first-place Tigers and 2.5 game ahead of the third-place Royals.
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