The Cleveland Indians needed all the help they could get from their red-hot hitters to win their series opener against the Kansas City Royals.
The Indians’ lineup might not have as much pressure in the next game if Scott Kazmir can continue his recent turnaround.
The left-hander will try to provide another superb effort and lead Cleveland to a season high-tying sixth straight win Wednesday night.
The Indians (45-38) have batted .333 in their five consecutive wins – all on the road – but had to hold on for a 6-5 victory Tuesday. After his team blew a 4-0 lead, Jason Giambi hit a key RBI double in the seventh, and closer Chris Perez worked out of a jam in the ninth.
Jason Kipnis went 1 for 4 with two runs scored to extend his hit streak to 13 games. He also reached base for the 33rd straight contest while helping Cleveland earn its fifth win in six matchups with Kansas City (38-42).
“The offense is putting up some big numbers. Hopefully we can keep rolling like we have the past couple of weeks,” said reliever Joe Smith, whose team has won 10 of 15 and nine of 11 on the road.
Kazmir (4-4, 4.83 ERA) will try to make it a little easier on the Indians by building on his last two starts. After earning his first win in nearly a month June 21, the left-hander took a no-hitter into the seventh inning last Wednesday in Baltimore but did not get a decision in a 4-3 victory.
“I’m feeling comfortable where I’m at right now. There’s still a lot to work on, but I feel like my delivery is getting a lot more consistent, that’s for sure,” he told the team’s website.
Kazmir was charged with one unearned run, one hit and one walk, but the bullpen couldn’t hold on to a slim lead after he had to leave because of nagging back spasms.
“It’s something that’s just more frustrating and irritating than anything. The start of the third inning, it seemed like it started tightening up quite a bit. The later innings it got a lot harder,” said Kazmir, who was 0-2 with a 7.98 ERA in his first three starts in June.
He gave up two runs over five innings in his only other game against Kansas City this season, a 3-2 road loss April 27.
While Kazmir will attempt to build on a strong finish to this past month, the Royals’ Jeremy Guthrie (7-6, 4.11) will try to end a three-start skid. The right-hander had a 6.89 ERA in his last three outings in June but gave up three runs over 6 1-3 innings in Thursday’s 3-1 loss in Minnesota.
“For sure, today was much better. I was able to execute. Even the inning where they got the hits, I felt like they were hitting my pitch more so than hitting mistakes,” he said.
Guthrie, who will make his 200th career start Wednesday, was part of a 9-0 victory in his only matchup with Cleveland this season, throwing 6 2-3 innings April 28.
Kipnis, batting .477 during his hit streak, went 0 for 2 with one walk in that game, his lone matchup with Guthrie. Nick Swisher is 13 for 31 (.419) with two homers and five doubles all-time against the right-hander.
Alex Gordon, who hit a grand slam Tuesday, is 3 for 13 lifetime versus Kazmir. Miguel Tejada is 12 for 30 (.400) with a home run and three doubles.
The Indians haven’t won six in a row on the road since a 10-game streak Aug. 8-Sept. 5, 2008.