"You've got to give him credit, man. He pitched a great game," Indians first baseman Nick Swisher said. "He gave us a little taste of our own medicine, of what we were getting all last year."
While Kazmir issued a clinic in efficiency, Indians right-hander Corey Kluber labored to find the strike zone in his debut as Cleveland's new No. 2 starter. Originally tabbed as the starter for Tuesday, which was postponed due to rain, Kluber allowed five runs and was chased from the contest before the end of the fourth inning.
Oakland's patient lineup forced Kluber to toil through 27 pitches in the first inning, during which Yoenis Cespedes delivered the first blow with a run-scoring single to right field. The pinpoint fastball command that has been Kluber's signature went missing in his abbreviated performance.
"That was very un-Kluber like," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "He'll bounce back. He just threw a lot of pitches, had to work for everything he got, had a lot of deep counts and fell behind a lot of hitters because of that. And, when he made a mistake, it came in the zone and they hit it."
The A's added a pair of runs in the second, which included Oakland manager Bob Melvin challenging a ruling on a play at the plate.
With one out, runners on the corners and the A's holding a 2-0 advantage, Josh Donaldson chopped a pitch to Indians third baseman Carlos Santana. Derek Norris attempted to score from third on the play, but Santana charged in, gloved the ball and made a quick relay to catcher Yan Gomes, who appeared to tag the runner in time for the out.
Francona was not thrilled at the timing of the replay and the delay that followed.
"We're all still trying to get a feel for it," Francona said. "I wasn't sure that the timing was [great]. I was under the impression that, once the pitcher's on the rubber, and the hitter's in the box, you can't [challenge]. Then again, those are things we're feeling our way through, so are the umpires."
The initial call by home-plate umpire Mark Wegner was upheld after the review, which was clocked at four minutes and 45 seconds. During that time, Kluber stood idly on the mound before working through a handful of warmup tosses after the review's conclusion. The next batter, Jed Lowrie, came through with an RBI single to push the Indians behind, 3-0.
Kluber did not blame the delay for any command woes that followed.
"By that point in the game, I think it was apparent that I was searching a little bit out there," Kluber said. "I don't think that really had anything to do with it. That being said, I thought it took way too long. If that's how long the replay is going to take, there's probably going to be some issues."
In the third inning, Kluber surrendered a first-pitch, two-run home run to A's third baseman Alberto Callaspo. By the time Kluber was lifted from the ballgame, the Indians starter had worked through 77 pitches and had fallen behind in the count to 13 of the 22 hitters he faced. Kluber gave up eight hits and ended with more walks (three) than strikeouts (two) in his first outing of the season.
It was a different story for Kazmir, who gave Cleveland an incredible comeback tale last season.
Out of affiliated baseball in 2012, Kazmir rejuvenated his career after signing a Minor League deal with the Tribe and winning a job in the rotation. The lefty won 10 games, struck out 162 and was a key part of Cleveland's 21-win September that sealed a spot in the playoffs. It was a showing that helped Kazmir earn a two-year, $22 million contract with the A's this past winter.
In Kazmir's first outing of the season, those looked like dollars well spent.
Over 7 1/3 innings, Kazmir limited the Indians to three hits and finished with five strikeouts and zero walks. He faced the minimum in five of his innings and did not allow a runner to advance past second base. Kazmir exited in the eighth inning to a standing ovation after Melvin turned to the bullpen following a one-out double by Mike Aviles.
"For him to go out and to just make every pitch the way that he did," Swisher said, "I'm excited for him, but I'm not excited for him. He's one of our good buddies over here, but I think for us, we might've been a little too hyped up going in there against him today.
"I couldn't help but smile my first time up there. He gave me a little nod."
Kazmir found it ironic that he had to face his former team right out of the gates.
"Maybe if I had waited a month or so for this to happen, it wouldn't feel so weird," Kazmir said. "But after the first pitch, I hear everyone in their dugout just chirping at me, talking trash and stuff. That was different, but I got a couple outs and was able to quiet them down a little bit."