Then bad things began to happen. Kevin Youkilis singled and David Ortiz walked. Before long, Jason Bay had a two-run double and the Red Sox had a 2-0 lead. Kazmir finished the first having thrown 38 pitches.
"I was starting to have fun until Ortiz came up in the first inning -- next thing I know, I put up another 30 pitches in the first inning," Kazmir said. "Just frustrating, that's all you can say.
"I just kind of got out of my groove. My slider's not biting. My [velocity] is not there. It's just frustrating, you know, when you feel like you have somebody and you feel like a certain pitch you have will get them out, and you just don't throw it."
Despite Kazmir's struggles throughout the 2008 season, Rays manager Joe Maddon sounded like Kazmir would still be his starter for Game 6, if necessary.
"Again, I'm not discouraged," Maddon said. "I know a lot of people are, and I know, once again, conventional wisdom pops in there, and I'm really not a conventional wisdomist, if that's a word.
"We'll wait and see. Yeah, absolutely he's going to pitch. I have a lot of confidence. This last outing, he wasn't so good. The one in Chicago, he fought through it and pitched well. It's one of those moments we have to keep throwing him out there. He's a wonderful talent, he's going to be a big part of our organization for many years to come, and [we're] absolutely going to show him support, no question."
Kazmir vs. White Sox in Game 2 of ALDS
Kazmir vs. Red Sox in Game 2 of ALCS
"I thought yesterday in the first inning was as well as he has thrown the ball in his last five or six or seven first innings, despite the fact that he threw 38 pitches and allowed a couple of runs," Hickey said. "He got two fairly quick outs with some nice, crisp pitches. He pitched well to Ortiz, who just took some good pitches and ended up walking.
"He tried to get up underneath Youkilis with a slider and left the ball out over the plate a little bit, but it was very disappointing. I thought we were going to get out of there with a 15-, 16-pitch inning -- and so did he, and he was real disappointed about that, also."
Breaking down Kazmir, Hickey said his main issues are familiar to any pitcher who struggles -- a lack of execution.
"Command of your pitches," Hickey said. "With him in particular, the command of the fastball has been lacking, and you saw the White Sox game where he struggled early, also, and then turned it around and gave us a good four-plus innings after that, and I really thought that was going to happen [Saturday]."
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.