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OAKLAND – It was easy to lose the significance of Scott Kazmir’s start in the dramatics of the A’s 4-3 come-from-behind victory Saturday over the Houston Astros.
But with Oakland’s bullpen still reeling after getting overworked at the end of a nine-game road trip, Kazmir delivered eight solid innings and allowed manager Bob Melvin to call on just one reliever, Dan Otero, for one inning of work.
The lefty held the Astros to six hits and three runs (two earned). He struck out five and, for the third time in four starts, walked zero. He’s posted a 1.65 ERA through four starts and gave a simple answer for his early success.
“Consistently throwing strikes,” Kazmir said. “I’m throwing all my pitches for strikes. I think that was a key today.”
Importantly, he came out of the game feeling good physically after he left his last start early with tightness in his left triceps.
Kazmir pitched well enough to win Saturday, but he was content in helping the A’s win for the 10th time in the past 12 games. At 12-5, they lead the American League West by two games over the Texas Rangers. Oakland has matched its best record after 17 games over the last 33 years (last year’s team and the 1990 squad also began 12-5).
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“I thought he was great,” Melvin said of Kazmir. “At times we didn’t play great behind him. We’ll work on it.”
Melvin was referring to the two errors the A’s committed, giving them an A.L.-high 18 for the season. Catcher Derek Norris made an errant throw to third that allowed Jonathan Villar to score in the fifth, and third baseman Josh Donaldson mishandled a grounder in the first.
But Kazmir’s effectiveness helped keep the A’s within striking distance, and they eventually broke through in the ninth with three runs to erase a 3-1 deficit.
“He keeps us in ballgames,” A’s right fielder Josh Reddick said. “That’s what our starters have done all year so far.”