Kazmir, Indians try to keep Wild Card hopes alive

Eight days of rest didn’t do Scott Kazmir much good in his last outing.
The Cleveland Indians hope he’s better with six days in between starts as they continue their playoff push against the visiting Minnesota Twins on Sunday.
Chasing their first postseason berth since 2007, the Indians (70-59) trail Oakland by 2 1/2 games for the AL’s second wild-card spot.
“If you get caught up scoreboard watching, it can’t really help you out too much,” second baseman Jason Kipnis said.
Kazmir (7-6, 4.39 ERA), who pitched 64 innings for the independent Sugar Land Skeeters last year, was granted the extra rest after allowing five runs in three innings against the Los Angeles Angels on Aug. 9.
The left-hander then surrendered five runs and a season-high 10 hits in five innings of a 7-3 loss to Oakland last Sunday.
“He’s fine. The layoff is good for his arm,” manager Terry Francona said. “He didn’t command very well. A lot of deep counts.”
Kazmir has given up seven first-inning runs in his past two starts. Before his two rough outings, Kazmir was 4-0 with a 1.93 ERA in his previous nine starts.
Two of his three outings against the Twins in 2013 came in that excellent stretch. Overall, Kazmir has a 1.42 ERA in three starts versus Minnesota (57-71) this season.
The Twins are hitting .179 off Kazmir in 2013, with Justin Morneau (0 for 9), Ryan Doumit (0 for 7), Brian Dozier (1 for 9) and Josh Willingham (1 for 6) especially struggling.
Kazmir will be opposed by a fellow former New York Mets first-round pick, Mike Pelfrey (5-10, 5.19), who has a 2.31 ERA in two starts against the Indians this season.
The right-hander will look to record a third consecutive quality start for the first time since June 8-18, 2011. He surrendered three runs in 6 2-3 innings of a 6-3 victory over Detroit on Tuesday.
Through the end of May, Pelfrey had a 6.66 ERA and had lasted six innings in just two of his 11 starts. Since then, he has a 4.11 ERA, lasting six-plus innings in 8 of 12 starts.
The Indians picked up their second win in nine tries at Progressive Field on Saturday after winning 11 straight home games from July 11 through Aug. 1. Kipnis and Carlos Santana hit two-run homers and Cleveland had five extra-base hits in its 7-2 victory.
“We needed a nice little offensive day like this,” said Kipnis, who broke out of an 0-for-19 slump and is now hitting .426 with four homers and 20 RBIs in 14 games against Minnesota this season.
Nick Swisher had a two-run double on Saturday, just his fifth hit in 47 at-bats (.106) this season against Minnesota.
The Twins’ bullpen will be short-handed as manager Ron Gardenhire said Anthony Swarzak and Brian Duensing are unavailable following multi-inning outings on Friday and Saturday.