Kazmir’s near flawless A’s debut reminds Indians what they’re missing

Kazmir pitched 7 1/3 inning of scoreless ball in his Oakland debut.

Ed Szczepanski/Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

OAKLAND — Scott Kazmir still has plenty of friends in the Indians’ clubhouse. They just wish Kazmir didn’t have success against him.

After going six-plus innings in only six of his 29 starts with the Tribe last year, Kazmir pitched 7 1/3 inning of scoreless ball in his Oakland debut as the Athletics defeated the Indians 6-1 in the afternoon portion of Wednesday’s day/night doubleheader at the O.co Coliseum.

"You’ve got to give him credit. He pitched a great game and gave us a taste of our own medicine of what we were getting from him all last year," said Nick Swisher of Kazmir. "Last year was a big step in the right direction for him and he continues to keep it going. You hate that it happened to us but you have to tip your hat."

For fans that remain leery of the Indians starting rotation, especially with the offseason departures of Kazmir and Ubaldo Jimenez, Wednesday did not ease their minds. It was the longest scoreless start for Kazmir since a complete-game shutout for Tampa Bay against Boston on July 3, 2006.

While Kazmir thrived, Corey Kluber struggled. The right-hander, who had a 5.40 ERA in spring training, went just 3 1/3 innings as he allowed five runs on eight hits, walking three and striking out two. It ties his shortest non-injury or rain-delayed stint. In an Aug. 12, 2012, game at Boston Kluber went just 3 1/3 innings and gave up six runs in a 14-1 loss to Boston.

Of the 22 batters Kluber faced, he fell behind on half of them with first-pitch balls.

"I didn’t do a good enough job of getting strikes and working ahead," Kluber said. "I got behind way too much and working hitter’s counts all day. It is tough to pitch that way. I felt a little bit out of sync and couldn’t make the adjustments."

The loss was Kluber’s first since May 27 last year. In September last season, he got a win in four of his five starts with a no decision in the other.

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After pitching in the Atlantic League in 2012, Kazmir signed with the Indians last year and went 10-9, which was his first double-digit win season since 2009. During the offseason, Kazmir signed a two-year, $22-million contract with Oakland.

After the game, Kazmir said there were some talks with the Indians but nothing serious.

The left-hander knew that the Indians were well versed in his style, which last year relied on a lot of inside pitches. Against the Indians, he started inside and then had a lot of success working the outside corner of the plate. His two-seam fastball, which often was low and away, confounded Cleveland hitters for most of the day.

Kazmir said his changeup was erratic at times but it was effective when he needed it to be.

"They know me, I know them. It’s just a cat and mouse game after that," Kazmir said. "It is almost like facing guys in your own division. You have to mix some stuff."

Added Swisher, who was 0 for 4: "He was real good locating his fastball. He started to mix his changeup a lot more than we can remember. He knows what we can do but for him to go out there and make every pitch the way he did. "We might have been too hyped up going against him."