Scott Kazmir got knocked around by the Astros in his first start of the season, which made it seem like his comeback with the Indians was destined to fail, but he’s actually been pretty good since then and turned in a very impressive start this afternoon against the A’s.
Kazmir tossed six innings of one-run ball versus Oakland, walking zero and striking out 10 for his first double-digit strikeout game since way back in August of 2009. That day he struck out 10 against a Blue Jays lineup that included Marco Scutaro leading off, Vernon Wells batting third, and Kevin Millar hitting cleanup.
Since then Kazmir had thrown 202 innings with a 5.38 ERA and 134/98 K/BB ratio. But now he’s allowed two runs or fewer in three consecutive starts while compiling a 21/3 K/BB ratio in 17 innings. And he’s still just 29 years old.
With a 6-1 win over the Twins in Sunday’s season finale, the Royals clinched the best record in the American League, which nets them home field advantage in the ALDS and ALCS. The Royals stand at 95-67 while the Blue Jays, who lost on Sunday, finish at 93-69.
95-67 is the Royals’ best record since finishing 97-65 in 1980, when they lost the World Series to the Phillies. Their division title is their first since 1985.
In the ALDS, which starts on Thursday, the Royals will host the winner of the AL Wild Card game between the Astros and Yankees. They are looking to avenge last year’s World Series loss, in seven games, to the Giants. The Blue Jays will host the Rangers in the other ALDS series.
Both the Astros’ and the Yankees’ fates were decided before their own games had completed on Sunday. The Rangers defeated the Angels, which clinched a Wild Card spot for the Astros. Then the Astros dropped Sunday’s season finale to the Diamondbacks, which clinched the first AL Wild Card slot for the Yankees. The Yankees are on their way to a loss against the Orioles as of this writing, but that will not affect anything now.
The Astros were in a 3-3 tie with the Diamondbacks in the seventh inning, but reliever Chad Qualls served up a two-run home run to Paul Goldschmidt. That would prove to be the deciding factor in a 5-3 loss.
The Yankees are losing 7-4 to the Orioles behind a subpar start by Michael Pineda and a shaky performance by the bullpen.
The MLB postseason opens up with the Yankees hosting the Astros on Tuesday in the AL Wild Card game. The winner moves on to face the Royals in Kansas City in the ALDS.