Facing Kazmir for the first time since the organization ate the final $10 million of his contract by releasing him in July 2011, the Angels' offense quickly went to work, scoring five first-inning runs and letting Jered Weaver take care of the rest in a 5-2 victory at Progressive Field.
Kazmir -- the same Kazmir who struggled through his first full season with the Angels in 2010, ate himself up trying to work it out and was finally released with only one start in '11 -- entered with a 1.93 ERA in his previous nine starts and left after recording only nine outs.
"Obviously he had that rough first, but it's pretty remarkable to see where he's come from," Weaver said after giving up two runs in seven innings to help the Angels snap a four-game losing streak. "Me and him had many a talks when he was here with us, trying to figure it out, and he's worked his butt off to get back. His stuff is back to being pretty electric."
Kazmir's velocity was down to the mid-80s as he struggled through his stint with the Angels, who acquired the promising young lefty from the Rays in August 2009. On Friday, his fastball was consistently in the mid-90s, but the Angels got the first four batters on as they batted around in the first.
J.B. Shuck and Collin Cowgill singled, Mike Trout walked to reach base in his 39th consecutive game and Mark Trumbo ripped a two-run single to left field. Two batters later, Josh Hamilton hit a three-run homer to right field -- his 17th on the year and just his fourth against a lefty.
"It just feels like about now I'm going through a little bit of a dead-arm stage," said Kazmir, whose ERA jumped to 4.18 after giving up five runs on six hits in three-plus innings. "It was something where I just tried to battle through, every single pitch, and just try to get quick outs. It just didn't work."
The Angels have scored at least one run in the first inning of each of their last six games, and because they got good starting pitching, played solid defense and finally received some scoreless relief, they won for only the second time in that stretch.
"More so than what we did offensively, and there's no doubt those early runs were important, we controlled the game on the defensive side," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said after his club snapped a six-game road losing streak and extended the Indians' losing streak to five. "It started with Jered Weaver. It seems like a broken record when we talk about what we need and where we need to be, but it starts with that guy that taking the ball."
With Ernesto Frieri struggling, giving up 12 earned runs in his last 4 2/3 innings, Scioscia turned to Dane De La Rosa, who recorded his first career save in his 65th career appearance.
"I don't know if we're going to have just one guy," Scioscia said regarding save situations, "but Dane looked pretty good tonight."
Weaver was occasionally hit hard, particularly on solo home runs by Michael Brantley and Asdrubal Cabrera, but he pounded the strike zone and kept his pitch count low, giving up six hits, walking none and striking out four to put his ERA at 1.49 over his past five starts. He threw 101 pitches, 64 for strikes.
With his last punchout, he tied John Lackey for fifth on the Angels' all-time strikeout list with 1,201. And by the end of the night, he improved to 6-0 with a 1.64 ERA in nine starts in Cleveland.
"I was pretty erratic early on, was able to settle in a little bit later," said Weaver, now 7-5 with a 2.87 ERA on the year. "I was falling behind and stuff. Command probably wasn't as good as it has been in the past, but I was able to make some pitches to get outs. They hit some balls hard, but they were right at people and the defense played well behind me."