Kazmir dazzles in debut with A's, dominating Tribe
Callaspo launches two-run homer to lead six-run onslaught
OAKLAND -- Scott Kazmir was worth the wait.
Initially penciled in to start a Tuesday night game that was washed out, Oakland's newest rotation member finally took the mound Wednesday for a matinee affair against his former Indians teammates and simply dominated them.
Not so much in the truest sense, with his fastball sitting in the 89-90 mph range, topping off at 92 on occasion. But Kazmir need not solely rely on it, anymore.
"At times I don't think he had his best velocity, but he's so unpredictable now with four pitches," said manager Bob Melvin. "He has a great changeup, pitches in and out with his fastball and certainly had good command with it. That's what it starts with for him, moving the ball around and mixing in his other stuff.
"He was fantastic."
Kazmir allowed just three hits and didn't walk a batter in the five-strikeout performance, a 7 1/3-inning joyride that guided the A's to a 6-1 victory -- their first of the season -- in the first game of a split doubleheader at the Oakland Coliseum.
"Coming to a new ballclub, you always want to make that good first impression," said catcher Derek Norris, "and I think that's what he did. If he had any type of pressure on his shoulders, I think that's eliminated."
"Very pleased with how everything turned out for the first start," said Kazmir, who shook off some playful trash-talking from the opposing dugout. "Something you can build on, something you can have that foundation to progress and carry on the rest of the year."
The 30-year-old pitcher is Oakland's biggest risk to date, and surely one of the most expensive. Even though the southpaw endured a two-year layoff from the big league scene in advance of a renaissance season in Cleveland last year, the A's awarded him a two-year, $22 million deal in the offseason, amounting to more money they've ever promised to a free-agent starter.
Kazmir pitched past the sixth inning in just six of his 29 starts last year, but by the time he entered the seventh on Wednesday he was only at 69 pitches, having worked in quick fashion, like the man whose locker he took over: Bartolo Colon. The lefty finished at 94 on the day, and right-hander Dan Otero threw an additional 38 pitches to finish out the win.
His new teammates, meanwhile, provided more than enough offensive support.
After being shut out in Monday's opener, the A's posted 12 hits against Cleveland's staff, including eight off right-handed starter Corey Kluber, chasing him away after only 3 1/3 innings to force the Indians to use five pitchers on a day when efficiency was particularly of significance.
The A's got right to work in the first inning, with Coco Crisp leading off with a base hit and eventually scoring on an RBI single from Yoenis Cespedes.
In the second, three consecutive singles from Alberto Callaspo, Norris and Eric Sogard paved the way for Crisp's sacrifice fly. Josh Donaldson's ensuing fielder's choice groundball sent Norris home, but Oakland's catcher was called out on a close play at the plate. Melvin utilized his first 2014 challenge to refute the call, but it was upheld.
Still, the A's found another way to score again, with Jed Lowrie following the challenge with an RBI base hit, giving his club a 3-0 edge.
Callaspo, given the start at third base while Donaldson took his turn as designated hitter, was in the middle of the action again in the third, launching a first-pitch homer over the right-field wall, a two-run shot that extended Oakland's lead to five runs.
"You see what he can do offensively," Melvin said of Callaspo, "and his versatility is playing for him here, now that he's playing some first base too."
The A's would score again in the sixth, courtesy of back-to-back doubles from Lowrie and Brandon Moss.
Norris, making a rare start against a right-hander, made good on the decision by collecting three hits on the day, making it a pretty good one for Oakland's battery.
"I think Scott just wants to be one of the starters, but when you lose a Bartolo to free agency and then [Jarrod] Parker and [A.J.] Griffin go down, his importance is key for us," said Melvin. "To get off to a good start is awfully important to him."
"You've got to give him credit, man," said Cleveland's Nick Swisher. "He pitched a great game, no doubt. He gave us a little taste of our own medicine, of what we were getting all last year. I think last year was a big step in the right direction for him, really learning how to pitch. "