But after an erratic Indians debut last week against the Houston Astros, Kazmir settled down to keep a dangerous Royals lineup in check for five innings, giving up two runs, five hits and two walks.
Unfortunately for Kazmir, he got no support from his offense, and the Royals prevailed 3-2 on Saturday night at Kauffman Stadium.
“I thought he threw a lot more strikes,” manager Terry Francona said. “He got after it with his fastball. It was good to see.”
Only one pitch cost Kazmir. It was thrown in the second inning after Jeff Francoeur walked with nobody out. Salvador Perez drove Kazmir’s 1-and-0 delivery the opposite way over the wall to right near the line for a two-run homer.
“I’ve never seen a guy do that, hit a ball that far outside, and he got all of it,” Kazmir said. “It was like he was a left-handed batter.”
At the time, the deficit didn’t seem decisive, not with the Indians scheduled to come to bat seven more times. But the homer set off an alarm above Kazmir’s head.
By the time the second inning was over, Kazmir had put five runners on base, though one hit came on an infield single and another on a weak flair to right.
Nevertheless, full grown snowmen are made up of dozens of snowballs, and the situation could have deteriorated for Kazmir. Instead, he retired 10 of the final 13 batters he faced. The Royals who reached did so on an error, an intentional walk and an infield single.
“I threw a lot of pitches in the first two innings,” he said. “I didn’t attack the zone the way I wanted. But I felt better in the third and started attacking the strike zone better. All in all, it was a start I can build on.”
It’s doubtful that anyone in the Indians’ hierarchy believed that Kazmir would go from an independent league starter in the Texas suburb of Sugarland last year to Cy Young Award winner this year. But Kazmir showed marked improvement from his first start, when he gave up six runs in 3⅓ innings, cutting his ERA in half to 8.64.
“He held his velocity with the fastball,” Francona said. “When he needed more, he went and got it.”
Francona removed Kazmir after 99 pitches.
As far as vanquishing the Royals, it really didn’t matter how many more batters Kazmir could have retired, the Indians’ offense was rendered almost embarrassingly impotent.
The Indians had two legitimate chances to put a number on the scoreboard against Ervin Santana and failed miserably. Over the years, Santana has a tendency to dominate or be dominated, usually depending on his command of the strike zone.
Saturday night, Santana worked seven scoreless innings and gave up six hits but no walks.
“Unfortunately, I’ve seen him good more often than not,” Francona said.
• WHO: Cleveland vs. Kansas City
• TIME: 2:10 and 8:10 p.m.
• WHERE: Kauffman Stadium, Kansas City, Mo.
• PITCHERS: Game 1 … Masterson (4-1, 1.85 ERA) vs. Guthrie (2-0, 3.86); Game 2 … Kluber (1-0, 1.80 ERA) vs. Guthrie (first start)
• TV/RADIO: SportsTime Ohio; WEOL 930-AM (Game 1 only), WTAM 1100-AM, WMMS 100.7-FM