Kazmir's dominance, Swisher's slam lead Indians to 8-1 win
Cleveland, OH -- Scott Kazmir struck out 12 batters in six innings andNick Swisher hit a grand slam as the Cleveland Indians beat the New York Mets 8-1 in the opener of a three-game weekend series at Progressive Field.
With the win, the Indians have won three games in a row as they continue their push toward a playoff spot. Cleveland is six games behind the Detroit Tigers in the American League Central and entered Friday three games out of the second spot in the AL Wild Card.
"This is a fun time of year," said Indians manager Terry Francona. "When you show up to the ballpark and you're nervous about the game, that's really exciting."
Kazmir (8-7, 4.17) struck out at least one batter in each inning and struck out the side in the first, third and sixth innings. The lefty has been pushed back in the rotation over the past month to maintain his arm and the decision looks to be paying off. Kazmir held the Mets to just four hits and a hit batter, winning his first game since Aug. 4 against Miami.
Kazmir, drafted by the Mets with the 15th overall pick in the 2002 draft, was traded to Tampa Bay for Victor Zambrano before ever pitching for the big league club. Kazmir made the All-Star team twice with the Rays and Zambrano went 10-14 in parts of three seasons in New York.
"It's great it was against the team that drafted me, but that definitely wasn't crossing through my mind when I was out there on the mound," Kazmir said. "We're playing for a playoff spot right now. That's the one thing I'm thinking about when I go out to the mound."
Having never faced the Mets before, Kazmir struck out 12 Mets, a season-high, falling just one short of his career best, which was 13 against Oakland on Aug. 25, 2007.
"Getting 12 strikeouts, that's the most I've gotten in a long time," he said. "Just to be able to throw my fastball consistently in the location I wanted to, that's something I was very pleased with."
Swisher's grand slam was the final blow in the eighth inning, putting the Indians up 8-1. After Lonnie Chisenhallwalked with one out in the inning, Drew Stubbs doubled to left, putting runners on second and third. Michael Bournfollowed with another walk before Swisher drove in all three with his 16th homer of the season. It was Swisher's eighth grand slam of his career.
"We've got to keep winning games," Swisher said. "This team lost close to 100 games last year. For us to just be in this spot, it goes to show you what this organization is doing."
Chisenhall hit a RBI-double scoring Yan Gomes from second in the sixth, but was tagged out at third trying to stretch his hit into a triple.
In all, Wheeler (7-4, 3.38) allowed three runs (two earned) in five innings. He surrendered five hits and also walked five, elevating his pitch count. Wheeler, 23, is one of the top prospects in baseball.
The Indians and Mets will play game two of the series Saturday at 6:05 p.m. Corey Kluber (7-5, 3.54) will start for Cleveland after missing a month with a sprained middle finger. Left-hander Jonathon Niese (6-6, 3.66) will start for New York.
Notes: The Indians placed Michael Brantley on the paternity list as he and his wife are expecting their first child. … Nick Swisher is paying the bill for an extra fireworks show on Sept. 21 to thank Cleveland fans. … Scott Kazmir became the second Indians pitcher since 1916 with at least 12 strikeouts in six innings or less (Sam McDowell on Sept. 18, 1966).
Nathan Kemp graduated from The University of Akron in 2012 with a bachelor's degree in English. He plans to pursue a graduate degree through NEOMFA in the fall. Follow him on Twitter @NathanCKemp.