Oakland A's

With different fastball approach, Kazmir baffles Rangers, A's win 7-0

Oakland Athletics pitcher Scott Kazmir works against the Texas Rangers in the first inning of a baseball game, Thursday, June 11, 2015, in Oakland, Calif.
Oakland Athletics pitcher Scott Kazmir works against the Texas Rangers in the first inning of a baseball game, Thursday, June 11, 2015, in Oakland, Calif. AP

OAKLAND -- The first fastball Scott Kazmir threw on Thursday clocked at 89 miles per hour on the Coliseum radar gun. The fastball that Kazmir threw past Kyle Blanks for the second out of the seventh inning -- the ninth pitch of that at-bat -- registered at 95.

A’s manager Bob Melvin was hesitated to say Kazmir "paced himself" against the Texas Rangers -- but the left-hander said that’s essentially what he did after approaching his last several starts differently with less-than-ideal results.

Kazmir had been 0-4 with a 4.85 ERA in his previous six starts. Thursday, he held Texas to one hit in eight shutout innings as the A’s beat the Rangers, 7-0.

"The past however many games it’s just been, right out of the gate, as hard as you could," Kazmir said of his velocity. "And I felt like I wasn’t really effective like that because I wasn’t necessarily hitting my location consistently. So I took a different approach (today) and it worked."

Kazmir retired 13 of his first 14 batters and didn’t give up his first hit until Elvis Andrus lined a single up the middle with one out in the fifth. Andrus was stranded on first, as the Rangers did not move a runner into scoring position in the game. Kazmir issued a leadoff walk to Prince Fielder in the seventh, but struck out Blanks and got Adam Rosales to hit into a 6-4-3 double play.

"He didn’t get too amped up early in the game and try to force things," Melvin said. "He just kind of went with the flow, spotted his fastball early on, mixed in all his pitches and then really kind of revved it up as he went along."

That was by design, said Kazmir, who can typically reach back for the mid-90s fastball but said he’s had to realize, "I’m maybe more effective doing that with two strikes, or when I need it … In this league if you throw 95 the whole time, (hitters) are going to time it eventually. Being deceptive, I think that’s more important than just the radar gun."

As a result, Kazmir said he focused more in the early innings Thursday on locating the fastball and varying its velocity to keep the Rangers from keying on it. He finished the eighth inning at 105 pitches and, after the A’s turned a one-run game into a 7-0 cushion in the bottom of that inning, watched Evan Scribner close out the ninth.

It was Kazmir’s first win since April 13, and just the fourth time the A’s have won in 11 starts by Kazmir this season.

"That was something special," right fielder Josh Reddick said. "Grinder, that’s what he did. He had a huge game for us."

* Kazmir benefited from a strong defensive game by the A’s. Billy Burns made a pair of highlight-reel catches in center field, but embattled shortstop Marcus Semien also made a nice play to start Rosales’ double play in the seventh, and the A’s as a team played error-free baseball.

"All around," Melvin said of the defense. "And when you have a tight game, and you’re getting a well-pitched game, it just kind of adds to the momentum when you’re playing defense on top of it."

Burns’ two catches will stand out, and there’s more on the impact he has had for the A’s since being called up from Triple-A here. One thing that did not make it into that story was Sam Fuld’s take on the two plays. Fuld, who has a reputation for making sensational catches in the outfield, had to leap over a diving Burns in the sixth when Burns robbed Delino DeShields in the left-center field gap.

Burns said tried to call Fuld off at the last second but wasn’t sure Fuld had heard him. Fuld said: "I heard him say something. Those are tricky plays. Obviously you want to be aggressive, but also not kill each other. He did a good job of saying something at the last second … I knew it was probably going to be tough for me or him."

Asked whether that play or Burns’ leaping catch against the wall in center had a higher degree of difficulty, Fuld said: "I don’t know. Those are tough. The one that he laid out on, I guess (in the sixth). If I had to choose one, I’d choose that. But they’re both really difficult."

Burns, for the record, said the eighth-inning catch was probably more difficult. Suffice to say that neither was routine.

* Fuld was 7-for-his-last-79 when he singled in the ninth inning Wednesday and came around to score the game-winning run in the A’s walk-off win. He followed that up by going 3-for-4 on Thursday. After saying he had felt "uncomfortable" during his at-bats Wednesday night, Fuld sounded more confident after Thursday’s win.

"Hitting is definitely as much about confidence as anything, so I think maybe there was something that happened last night," Fuld said. "Just having that walk-off win and being a part of it gives you confidence at the plate. It’s tough to pinpoint exactly what it is, but felt like that was certainly a factor."

Melvin said he hopes the mini-streak can help spur Fuld going forward.

"You find the barrel a couple times after what’s been a tough stretch for him, now just the confidence comes back," Melvin said.

* The A’s broke things open with two big swings in the eighth. Mark Canha made it a 3-0 game with his two-run homer off Jon Edwards -- Canha’s eighth of the year -- and Josh Reddick capped the scoring with a three-run home run against left-handed reliever Ross Detwiler.

Earlier in the series, Melvin had pinch-hit for Reddick with two runners on and Detwiler pitching. Reddick revealed after Thursday’s game he wasn’t thrilled with the move, and that he has a history of facing Detwiler that goes back to his college days, when Detwiler was pitching for Team USA and Reddick was playing for a wooden-bat summer league in Georgia.

"I know how he pitches, I’ve seen him over the span of seven or eight years, and kind of have a little bit of confidence against him as well."

In a 1-1 count, Reddick got a low breaking ball from Detwiler and golfed it over the right field wall for his ninth home run of the season.

"You can understand me being a little upset the other night," he said.

* After a short three-game homestand, the A’s return to the road for a three-game series against the Angels beginning Friday. The pitching probables:

Friday: RHP Jesse Chavez (2-6, 2.51) vs. LHP Hector Santiago (4-3, 2.55)

Saturday: RHP Kendall Graveman (3-2, 4.83) vs. LHP C.J. Wilson (3-5, 3.92)

Sunday: RHP Sonny Gray (7-3, 1.74) vs. RHP Matt Shoemaker (4-4, 4.86)

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