Scott Kazmir has shown the A’s so much in his first season in Oakland.
Now he gets to show how he rebounds from adversity.
The left-hander was admittedly at his worst in Tuesday’s 10-1 blowout defeat against the New York Mets. Typically a wizard at spotting his array of pitches anywhere he wants, Kazmir couldn’t summon that pinpoint control at Citi Field.
[INSTANT REPLAY: Colon contains A's, Mets win 10-1]
The result was three home runs allowed and a season-high seven runs in just three innings. Big leaguers often talk of flushing such outings from their system ASAP and turning the page. Kazmir said he’ll subscribe to the same method, but he didn’t let himself off the hook in addressing reporters afterward.
“It’s one of those outings where anything that could go wrong, did go wrong,” Kazmir said. “It’s something I’ll think about tonight, but of course move past it the next day. But this one hurt. This was something where I felt I really had a good grasp on everything, a good approach, and I just didn’t execute.”
It was surprising to watch only because Kazmir has been so downright automatic this season. He entered the night leading the American League in both ERA (2.08) and opponents’ batting average (.203). He’s run his fastball into the mid-90’s, then twisted hitters in knots with a changeup that drops to the mid-70’s.
But as Mets starter Bartolo Colon was mowing down his former teammates with eight innings of four-hit ball, the frustration was visible on Kazmir as his command deserted him. He gave up back-to-back homers in the second, piping a fastball on Curtis Granderson’s two-run shot and hanging a change-up out over the plate to Chris Young.
With the A’s trailing 4-1 in the third, Kazmir got ahead of Travis d’Arnaud 1-2 but then left a curve over the inner part of the plate and d’Arnaud drilled it for a three-run homer. As the ball left the bat, Kazmir simply threw his arms up in exasperation.
“I just wasn’t throwing my pitches where I wanted to at all,” Kazmir said. “Any changeup was belt high or even higher and they put good swings on it. I felt like I had certain guys that did damage to me, I had them set up for a certain pitch, and ended up throwing the complete opposite. And they made me pay for it.”
It was an untimely performance in the context of All-Star talk. Kazmir was putting himself in the discussion to be the AL’s All-Star starter should the Yankees’ Masahiro Tanaka stumble at all. Those hopes took a hit Tuesday, although Kazmir should still remain on solid ground for making the squad should he put this loss in the rear-view mirror.
And that’s surely what A’s manager Bob Melvin will be watching. Kazmir has shown how dominant he can be when he’s at top form. How will he respond after a night when things didn’t come together as planned?
“He wasn’t locating like he normally does,” Melvin said. “He’s usually so unpredictable with his pitches that if he does get a ball up, he gets away with it. But not today. We haven’t seen him go through it, that’s how good he’s been for us. He just had an off-night.”
It couldn’t have felt good for the A’s to be shut down by Colon, who last year was throwing darts in an Oakland uniform. It had to sting a bit to see Young, another former Athletic, enjoy a two-homer game. But the A’s can live with that.
Of more importance: Their veteran lefty must develop a short memory and show that Tuesday’s events were just a blip on the radar.