Kazmir's pregame tweak proves beneficial

Dodgers lefty throws simulated inning before game

Kazmir's pregame tweak proves beneficial

LOS ANGELES -- All season long, the first inning has haunted Scott Kazmir. The southpaw's solution for that seems simple in retrospect: make the first inning he pitches not count.

Kazmir threw a simulated inning with a batter stand-in before Saturday's contest vs. the Rockies, got through the first inning of the game, and went on to register the win in the Dodgers' 6-1 victory.

"I talked about it last start, we were going to make some pregame adjustments," Kazmir said. "That's what we did, kind of a simulated inning after a warmup. It seemed to lock me in a little bit and get me more prepared for that first inning."

After throwing his warmup bullpen session, Kazmir had a bystander in the bullpen (he forgets who it was) step into the batter's box for three at-bats, alternating sides of home plate.

"On certain pitches, you get that release point on where you want to start pitches," Kazmir said. "You just get a better feel when you see hitters out there."

The results were encouraging, to say the least. After hitting Charlie Blackmon with a pitch to lead off the game, Kazmir set down the Rockies' next three hitters with ease and kept on chugging, eventually finishing with six scoreless innings with 10 strikeouts and zero walks. It was his first game of the season with no walks since his debut in April, while the strikeout mark is his second highest in 2016.

The stuff backed up the results. Kazmir was regularly in the realm of 94-95 mph and commanding his pitches, a combination that has been a rarity in his first season with the Dodgers.

"The stuff, you saw some 4's and 5's tonight, was really good," manager Dave Roberts said. "The change was good. Those are some good hitters over there, very good offense. To keep those guys at bay, limit them to two, three hits, he was really good. That's the Kazmir we know."

Nolan Arenado, who homered off Kazmir in their last matchup on April 22, also said Kazmir was throwing much harder than earlier in the season.

Arenado struck out in all three at-bats against Kazmir on Saturday.

On the other hand, Kazmir said the velocity spike wasn't the primary driver of success, instead crediting some extra jump on his fastball that was created by staying closed in his pitch motion for longer.

Whatever the cause of his success Saturday, it delivered a much needed win for both the Dodgers and Kazmir. The loss of Clayton Kershaw, whose timetable is still up in the air, looms large. Meanwhile, Kazmir is coming off a month of June in which his sole quality start involved six extra-base hits allowed to the Nationals.

Jack Baer is a reporter for MLB.com based in Los Angeles. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.