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Kazmir plans to repay Astros' confidence

Veteran lefty given Game 2 start despite September struggles

KANSAS CITY -- Scott Kazmir hasn't met a challenge he can't overcome.

The veteran lefty, whose storybook comeback with the Indians and A's has been well documented, is back in the postseason for the first time since 2009, this time with his hometown Astros club, which anointed him Game 2 starter of the American League Division Series despite his recent struggles.

:: ALDS: Astros vs. Royals -- Tune-in info ::

A victory on Friday would give the Astros a commanding 2-0 lead in the series following their 5-2 win in Game 1 on Thursday night.

"For them to have the confidence in me to pitch Game 2, a very important game, pivotal game, I think it shows a lot about what they think of me," said Kazmir, who will be opposed by Royals right-hander Johnny Cueto in the 3:30 p.m. ET matchup at Kauffman Stadium on Friday, set to air on FOX Sports 1. "I'm just going to go out there and try to do my best."

Kazmir, 31, claimed just two wins in 13 regular-season starts with the Astros after they acquired him from the A's at the non-waiver Trade Deadline, his last coming on Aug. 22. Since then, he has a 6.52 ERA in six starts.

But the three-time All-Star feels "a little bit unlucky" of late and doesn't expect any carryover from those second-half scuffles. Neither does manager A.J. Hinch, who spoke confidently of Kazmir's success this season against the Royals, against whom he allowed only five runs in 21 1/3 innings spanning three starts.

"Once you toe the rubber and you've got the environment we know it's going to be tomorrow afternoon, the intensity of the game, all bets are off," Hinch said. "But I like the comfort of knowing he's pitched well in this park. He's pitched well against this team. He's been there, done that before. And that factored in.

"This team was built to create a little bit of havoc on lefties and righties. Scott has done it before, and we hope he returns to that tomorrow."

Kazmir finished with a 7-11 record and a 3.10 ERA -- fourth in the AL -- in his third season since returning to the big leagues following a stint in the independent leagues after temporarily leaving the game amid ongoing mechanical mishaps.

In the first chapter of his Major League career, the Mets' 2002 first-round Draft pick excelled with Tampa Bay, helping the Rays to the playoffs in 2008. He made five postseason starts that year, including two in the World Series, going 2-3 with a 4.21 ERA. Back in the playoffs with the Angels the following season, he finished 1-2 with a 7.59 ERA.

Kazmir is hardly the same pitcher he was then, having made a series of adjustments over the next several years, the types of necessary fixes he hopes to showcase on Friday after a forgettable September.

"Going through what I've gone through in the past however many years, it really doesn't feel like it's much at all," Kazmir said. "Just feels like a little rough patch that happened at a bad time.

"It was something where I feel like one or two pitches throughout any one of those games could have been a different outcome. So my confidence was always there."

Jane Lee is a reporter for Read her blog, Major Lee-ague, and follow her on Twitter @JaneMLB.
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