Giants offense remains ice cold in Scott Kazmir’s return

San Francisco – For the first time in five years, Scott Kazmir returned to the big leagues after getting called up by the Giants late Friday night.  Unfortunately for him, San Francisco’s lineup remained ice cold as they dropped the second game of the series to the Los Angeles Dodgers 6-3.

Kazmir was fairly sharp in his first big league action since pitching for the Dodgers in 2016.  He only pitched four innings, allowing just one run on two hits with a strikeout.  That one run allowed came on a Max Muncy home run into McCovey Cove with two outs in the first inning.  Muncy took advantage of a changeup middle-inside that stayed flat into the strike zone.

Kazmir went on to retire the next eight Dodgers until Muncy’s home run, he knocked a single off of Kazmir in the fourth inning, his final inning of work on the mound.

“I thought he did a great job and told him as much,” said Giants manager Gabe Kapler about Kazmir’s return.  “It’s impressive that he came out with such crisp stuff.  He had the one blemish against Muncy who put a good swing on that ball and kept it fair.  But other than that, I mean, I thought he attacked his own with both of those pitches and did a nice job getting synced up with [Buster Posey].”

Kazmir took the 2017 season off due to injury, then after being released by the Braves in March 2018, he decided to step away from the game to take care of and spend time with his family.

He got back into pitching competitively last year in the Constellation Energy League in Texas, where he made four appearances for Eastern Reyes del Tigre, winning two games with a 4.20 ERA and 10 strikeouts. 

“He’s looked good for us in Triple-A,” Kapler explained.  “It’s a story of perseverance and one of resilience.  It’s a testament to his drive and determination, his willingness to kind of go through some difficult stretches, it’s not easy to be an established major league pitcher, and to go back and pitch in independent ball to give yourself another shot, it’s quite the story.”

Kazmir signed a minor-league deal with San Francisco over the winter and pitched with Triple-A Sacramento before getting called up for Saturday’s appearance. 

After yesterday’s loss, the Giants are waiting for their lineup to make a comeback of any sort.

For the second straight game, San Francisco was shut down by LA’s starting pitching.  This time Walker Buehler picked up the win.  Buehler allowed just one run on six hits with five strikeouts in seven innings on today, becoming the first pitcher this season to go seven innings or more against the Giants.

“I think we have a better brand in us at the same time, I think this is the right time to continue to tip your cap to two excellent starting pitchers in [Trevor] Bauer and Buehler who just did really good work,” said Kapler.

Alex Dickerson provided the lone run for San Francisco with an RBI single to score Brandon Crawford in the seventh inning.  Crawford led off the bottom of the seventh with a loud double to deep center as the Giants were looking for some sort of late rally.  Posey launched a two-run homer to left off Dodgers reliever Alex Vesia in the eighth to bring San Francisco back 6-3.

The two recent loses plummeted the Giants quickly from top of the National League, back to third in the NL West.  Now a game behind the Dodgers and the Padres, who currently lead the division. 

San Francisco will look to salvage the series in tomorrow’s finale (1:05pm PT) before heading back on the road.  Anthony DeSclafani (4-1, 2.03 ERA, 48K) will take the mound for the Giants against Julio Arias(6-1, 3.04 ERA, 60K) for the Dodgers.

Scott Kazmir’s return is only the beginning of his latest chapter

Only in Hollywood could you write a script like this.  After a two year hiatus, Scott Kazmir returned to the big leagues in his return to the mound for the first time in five years.

“It feels a lot more sweet,” Kazmir said after today’s loss against the Dodgers.  “It’s a lot tougher.  It’s a different game now.  The talent’s gotten better and the philosophy has changed.  It’s different.”

The now 37-year-old, long-haired right-hander went four innings, allowing just two hits, one of which was a home run by Max Muncy into McCovey Cove with two away in the first.  Kazmir got into a rhythm after Muncy’s home run, he retired the next eight Dodgers before Muncy knocked a single against him in the fourth to end the short hitless streak.

“I thought he did a great job and told him as much,” said Kapler.  “I thought he attacked the zone with both of those pitches and did a nice job getting synced up with Buster.

“I actually think it was more impressive that he was able to come out with such crisp stuff and locate his fastball.  To not have any, like real big misses early in the game given that adrenaline given that time off, I think it speaks to his preparation and the fact that he’s been on a major league mound many times before in his life and has done so very successfully.  So he’s able to kind of use that experience to help him get through this.  And the moment wasn’t too big for him and the adrenaline was actually probably really helpful in terms of sharpening his focus.”

Kapler would know a few things about coming out of retirement.  After retiring in 2006, just two years after winning a ring with the Boston Red Sox, he spent a season as the manager for the Red Sox Single-A affiliate, the Greenville Drive.  He returned to the Majors in 2008, with the Milwaukee Brewers in 2008 before spending his last two years in the Majors with Tampa Bay where he was Kazmir’s teammate.

Kazmir wasn’t anywhere close to baseball during his time off compared to Kapler, and his return to the mound was anything but routine. 

After getting released by the Atlanta Braves in March 2018, he took the next year and a half off to spend time with family and friends, something he wasn’t able to do much off while pitching in the Majors. 

Then during the All-Star break in 2019, he was playing catch with his former teammate, Oakland A’s pitcher Kendall Graveman.  After realizing that he still had the arm, he decided to give it another go.

Kazmir made four appearances for the Eastern Reyes del Tigre of the Constellation Energy League last year during the pandemic, an independent baseball league in Texas, going 2-1 with a 4.20 ERA, tallying 10 strikeouts.  He continued his comeback trail this winter, signing a minor league deal with the Giants, continuing to grind toward his comeback at Triple-A Sacramento.

“It’s a story of personal perseverance and one of resilience,” Kapler explained.  “Last year, he was pitching in independent baseball.  He got a chance to come to camp with us and worked really hard at his craft.  I remember watching his first bullpen in Scottsdale, and it just didn’t look too much different from what we saw back in ’16.  I think it’s a testament to his drive and his determination and his willingness to kind of go through some difficult stretches.”

Kazmir explains that it isn’t about the money nor chasing a ring.  His return to the mound this time is much more personal than that.

“Once I started throwing with my buddy, and it started breaking, it felt great, and I just ran with it,” Kazmir said. “For me, it just felt like I still have a lot more in the tank. I love the game of baseball, and with two kids now I feel like I have that motivation to keep playing so maybe one day they can remember and see me play in a big league ball game. 

“I think that’s a huge goal of mine and a huge motivation for me to keep going.”

Photo by SFGiants/Twitter

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