LOS ANGELES -- It was a cruel twist of fate that Scott Kazmir's best night of the season came to an abrupt halt, but he was still able to show off his filthiest stuff since signing with the Dodgers last offseason and, more importantly, demonstrate that his arsenal was fully functional.
Against a team that ranks third in the Majors in runs scored and first in home runs, Kazmir used a full pitch mix to navigate danger and deliver the Dodgers a 5-3 win over the Cardinals on Saturday night at Dodger Stadium.
"I felt like every pitch was working for me," Kazmir said. "I was able to get ahead in the count and had a good fastball today. I was able to keep hitters honest with the changeup away, cutter in -- just mix it in and out. That was the key."
Kazmir dealt with soreness in his wrist and hand during Spring Training and for much of the season, contributing to a rough April in which the 32-year-old southpaw finished with a 5.76 ERA.
Kazmir also admitted that he still wasn't cleared to swing his bat at the plate, calling a cut he took during his last start a mistake. It at least worked out on Saturday, as a bunt single contributed to a three-run rally in the fifth inning.
"As a player, you don't want to let on too much, as far as injury, but I think that it might have played a factor," manager Dave Roberts said. "He wasn't throwing his changeup as much earlier, but he now he feels confident with the change, and the velocity is coming back. He says he feels 100 percent, and with the velocity tonight, that feels like the truth."
The velocity was most definitely present throughout Saturday's start. All of Kazmir's fastballs sat in the 92-95-mph range during the game's final innings. Before Saturday, his fastball had averaged 91.49 mph, according to Statcast™.
The reasons for success went beyond velocity, though, as Kazmir's command was the best Roberts said he had seen all season. Kazmir's teammates were in agreement.
"I looked up a few times and saw he was a little harder," shortstop Corey Seager said. "[The fastball] was coming out good, even if it wasn't harder. Had some life to it, everything had some bite. He was sharp tonight."
It could have been an even better night for Kazmir, considering he entered the ninth inning with no earned runs and at a manageable pitch count of 102. But then the first two batters required 11 pitches to retire and a single from Randal Grichuk and homer from Jeremy Hazelbaker forced Roberts to call on closer Kenley Jansen for the save.
Kazmir described it as a gut punch, but it was still a night in which he lowered his ERA by more than half a run, from 5.54 to 4.89.