Scott Kazmir didn’t have the opportunity to defeat his former team twice this season Saturday at Progressive Field.
But the veteran left-hander who beat the Indians in the season-opening series in Oakland, didn’t seem to mind too much by the end of the three-hour game. By then, he was able to cool off and even joke a little about his early ejection - thanks to his teammates pulling out a 6-2 victory in his absence.
By the time Kazmir’s teammates joined in the visitor’s clubhouse, the night’s wackiness also included some squirrel entertainment, three more Indians errors and a disputed A’s home run that didn’t even matter in the end.
Although Kazmir was tossed with one out in the second inning for arguing balls and strikes with home plate umpire Jerry Layne, the A’s bullpen mopped up the final 7 2/3 innings and the Oakland offense rallied for three runs in the next inning then tacked on a trio of error-aided insurance runs in the seventh.
Fans in the stands didn’t have much time to settle in before Kazmir walked Asdrubal Cabrera, gave up a double to Yan Gomes then allowed Cabrera to score on a wild pitch with one out in the bottom of the second. But what really pushed Kazmir over the edge was Layne’s ball call on Indians rookie first baseman Jesus Aguilar that handed him a walk instead of the strikeout looking Kazmir thought he’d had.
Kazmir told A’s reporters that he said to Layne: “’That ball is right there,’ and the next thing I know, I'm out of the game.”
But Kazmir did stand on the mound for an extended period with his hands on his hips as Aguilar trotted to first base, then uttered something to Layne that promptly got him ejected. In baseball, that’s considered showing up the ump. And veteran pitcher or not, it’ll get you tossed with a quick trigger.
“He was gesturing and arguing balls and strikes,” Layne told a pool reporter. “That's (an) automatic ejection. When I warned him, he didn't take any knowledge of that, and that's it.”
Layne said he warned Kamir after the walk to Aguilar, but Kazmir continued to argue.
”Bottom line,” Layne said, “it was just pure balls and strikes.”
As Kazmir left the field, he threw his glove in frustration, then kicked the trash can – twice - for good measure.
“I want to apologize to the garbage can I kicked,” Kazmir joked after the game, “it did nothing wrong.”
Of course by then, Kazmir could be as humorous as he wanted, after his short outing didn’t hurt his team one bit. That’s because his replacement-in-a-pinch - reliver Dan Otero – came to the rescue by quickly getting the A's out of the jam. He needed only one pitch to induce Mike Aviles into a double play then went on to work a career-high 3 2/3 innings. Otero scattered four hits in keeping the Indians off the board, while the A’s offense pitched in with a three-run third to take the lead.
“We’re there at an inning into the game and we’re in their bullpen,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “But (Otero) was so good. He got the first pitch double play (and) the next inning he got a double play. And he kind of let them get their bullpen in semi order. So, he really bailed them out.”
With two outs in the third, the A's rallied for three runs against Indians starter Josh Tomlin in a lengthy inning that included an extended apparance by the Tribe’s so-called “rally squirrel” – which now needs a new nickname after its second appearance this season aided the opponent.
Josh Donaldson’ssingle scored Coco Crisp to tie game, 1-1, before the squirrel stopped play briefly as it scampered around the outfield, eventually towards the infield and then back out to the outfield before hopping a short wall and scurring into the left field stands – persumably to safety.
When the teams got back to action, Brandon Moss sent a Tomlin full-count offering into the right field stands for a two-run homer that pushed the A’s lead to 3-1. A throwing error by third baseman Carlos Santana (his third in as many games) extended the inning further, but did no damage as Jed Lowrie flew out to center to end the rally.
But after throwing a combined 31 pitches over the first two innings, Tomlin labored through the third, needing 32 pitches. But he settled in from there and went on to limit the A’s to the three runs on five hits over six innings.
“I kinda got away from a little bit of stuff and they kind of put some good swings on the ball,” Tomlin said of the third inning. “That team battles. They don’t strike out much. They’re patient in certain spots, so you gotta make your pitches. I tried to throw a sinker away to Moss and it caught too much of the plate and he put a good swing on it.”
Meanwhile, Otero kept the Tribe’s bats in check through the fifth inning before giving way to left-hander Fernando Abad. With Otero gone, the Indians trimmed the deficit to a run when Michael Brantley and Santana led off with back-to-back singles and Cabrera drove in Brantley with a sacrifice fly.
But the A’s returned the favor, tagging the usually steady Indians bullpen for three runs in the seventh inning that included a costly error on a dropped ball at first by Aguilar on a potential double play ball that would have ended the threat.
“I don’t know what happened,” Aguilar said. “That’s baseball. I don’t know what happened. The ball bounced from my glove.”
With the error giving the A’s another chance, Tribe reliever Marc Rzepczynski walked Alberto Callaspo and Donaldson followed with a shot to center field that bounced off the top of the wall to score two runs. The original call on the field of triple stood after a three-minute crew chief review before Moss added an RBI double that extended Oakland’s lead to four runs.