Indians left-hander Scott Kazmir has had a rough few years, rough years that included injury, poor performance and a stint in an independent league. The Tribe took a flier on him in spring training, and he won a rotation spot. On Thursday afternoon, the southpaw turned in his best big-league start since 2009. Cleveland won the game 9-2.
Kazmir, 29, struck out 10 Athletics in the series finale, walking zero and allowing one run in six innings. He allowed five hits -- four singles and a solo homer -- and threw a first-pitch strike to a whopping 19 of 23 batters faced. Seventy-two of his 103 total pitches were strikes, which is pretty impressive. By his Game Score metric (67), this was Kazmir's best big-league start since holding the Mariners to one run on three hits in seven innings in September 2009.
As good as the results were, the most encouraging thing about Kazmir's outing was his fastball velocity. He averaged 93.3 mph with its and topped out at 96.2 mph according to PitchFX. And his final three pitches all clocked in at 95+. Kazmir was throwing hard, and he held it deep into the start. Combine the premium velocity with all of those strikes and it would be hard for the Indians to not be excited right now.
Kazmir has now allowed five runs total in his last three starts, and he has gotten better each time out. He's still relatively young -- won't turn 30 until January -- and is more than three years removed from the shoulder and elbow woes that derailed what was a very promising career. Kazmir was an All-Star who led the AL in strikeouts at age 23. And though it's incredibly early, it looks like he might be over the hump and on his way toward rediscovering that kind of success.