If the Indians are going to make the playoffs, they either need a healthy Justin Masterson or someone needs to step up and quickly establish himself as the new ace of the rotation. And, just maybe, that could could be Scott Kazmir.
In one of the most dominating performances we’ve ever seen in Progressive Field, Kazmir shut down the Mets, allowing the Tribe to keep pace in the wild card race.
A few quick notes on Kazmir’s dominance…
- He becomes the first pitcher in Progressive Field history to strike out 12 batters while allowing zero runs, and the first Indians pitcher to accomplish the feat at home since Dennis Eckersley during his no-hitter in 1977.
- Kazmir also becomes just the second Indians pitcher to strike out 12 in just six innings of work, joining Sam McDowell who K’d 14 Tigers in six innings in a game in 1966.
- He becomes just the 9th pitcher since 1916 (the baseball-reference era) to strike out 12 while allowing zero runs in 6 innings or less (and considering the typical workload pre-1916, it’s fairly safe to assume this is the all-time list as well).
But while all these bits of Trivia are nice, what really matters is Kazmir’s ability to replicate the performance – or at least something reasonably close. The Indians desperately need an ace if Masterson is going to miss some time and if Kazmir can get hot for just two or three starts, that could be the difference between playing into October and staying home.
While Kazmir’s performance is obviously encouraging, I also like the fact that Terry Francona pulled him after six innings. The Tribe was up 4-0 entering the 7th and Kazmir had thrown 97 pitches. It shows that Francona still has confidence in a bullpen that hasn’t always been great this year, and that he understands the importance of keeping Kazmir fresh and effective down the stretch.
It’s also worth noting that this game came against the Mets, a team that has nothing left to play for and, understandably so, has looked a bit demoralized since the injury to Matt Harvey. But at this point in the season there’s no reason to concern ourselves with who the wins are coming against, so long as they keep coming. The Indians have one of the easiest remaining schedules in baseball and all they need to do is continue to take advantage of it, as Kazmir and company did on Friday night.