Scott Kazmir was just about at the end of the line two years ago when he was struggling in the independent Atlantic League.
Now the Oakland Athletics have to be happy with what they've seen since signing him to a two-year deal in the offseason.Kazmir seeks his third straight win while leading the A's to their sixth victory in seven games Sunday in the series finale against the Seattle Mariners.After getting shut down by Felix Hernandez in Friday's 6-4 loss that snapped its four-game winning streak, Oakland (7-4) bounced back behind a two-run homer from Josh Donaldson and seven strong innings from Sonny Gray in a 3-1 win Saturday.Donaldson has found a groove on the five-game road trip that wraps up Sunday, hitting 8 for 23 (.348) with two homers. Coco Crisp went 1 for 3 and scored twice after missing the past four games with a sore wrist.The A's seek their third consecutive series win behind Kazmir (2-0, 2.03 ERA), who made the most of a minor league deal with Cleveland last season after pitching poorly for the Sugar Land Skeeters in 2012.Kazmir went 10-9 with a 4.04 ERA for the Indians, earning a two-year, $24 million contract with the A's in December. After shutting out Cleveland over 7 1/3 innings to win his Oakland debut, the left-hander overcame four walks and allowed three runs over six frames in an 8-3 victory at Minnesota on Monday."Not very efficient with my pitches, but there's going to be days like that so I need to be able to battle," said Kazmir, who has benefited from 14 total runs of support in his two wins. "To get six (innings) out of that, that's something you can build on."Kazmir surrendered five runs in three innings in an extra-inning home win over the Mariners (6-4) last May, but he dazzled in Seattle when he allowed an unearned run and one hit over eight innings of a 10-1 win July 24.Justin Smoak, who had the only hit against Kazmir in that contest, is 3 for 25 in his last seven games following a 6-for-13 start. He's also 1 for 10 with six strikeouts lifetime in this matchup.New addition Robinson Cano, who had the lone RBI on a first-inning groundout Saturday, has gone 7 for 34 (.206) with three home runs when facing Kazmir.Since pushing across 26 runs during their three-game sweep of the Los Angeles Angels to open the season, the Mariners have scored 20 with a .202 batting average while dropping four of their last seven.Seattle went 0 for 10 with runners in scoring position Saturday."We had opportunities," manager Lloyd McClendon told the team's official website. "We just couldn't take advantage of it."Dustin Ackley has been a bright spot in this series, though, going 5 for 8 with two doubles in the two games.Seattle starter Chris Young (0-0, 0.00) seeks his first win since Sept. 2, 2012 after working two scoreless innings of relief in Oakland last Sunday. The veteran right-hander made four starts with the Mets in 2011 before undergoing major shoulder surgery.Young, who signed a one-year deal in March, was scheduled to start April 4 before Oakland Coliseum's first rainout since 1998. He's 2-1 with a 3.32 ERA in four career starts versus the A's, whom he has not faced since 2006.McClendon said they would likely need to limit Young to about 90 pitches.
Scott Kazmir has allowed a .153 batting average in at-bats to end in a breaking ball since the All-Star break last season, sixth best in the AL over that time. Seattle Mariners hitters have compiled a .205 batting average against breaking balls since the start of last season, third worst in the AL.
* 74.4 percent of his pitches were strikes, his 2nd-highest rate in any start since 2009
* Hitters chased on 41.0 percent of his pitches out of the strike zone, his 3rd-highest rate in any start since 2009
* Hitters missed on 19 of their 47 swings, tied for the 2nd most misses in any start since 2009
* 8 of those swings-and-misses came against his changeup (tied for his highest since 2009); 4 Ks in ABs ending in a changeup were tied for his 2nd most since 2009