Cleveland, OH – The New York Mets have long wondered what might have been had they not traded away Scott Kazmir nine years ago.
On Friday night, they found out the hard way.
In his first career appearance against his former club, the left-handed hurler fanned a season-high 12 batters to drive the Cleveland Indians to an 8-1 victory, their fourth in five games.
Nick Swisher completed the rout with an eighth inning grand slam, Carlos Santana drove in two and Michael Bourn and Lonnie Chisenhall contributed an RBI apiece to back the spectacular performance from Kazmir (8-7), who scattered only four hits over six innings of work.
"We're playing for a playoff spot right now and that's the one thing I'm thinking about when I'm going out to the mound," said Kazmir. "It was great that it was against the team that drafted me but that definitely wasn't crossing my mind when I was out there on the mound."
After another loss by Tampa Bay, the Indians moved within two games of the club for the final wild card spot in the American League. The Baltimore Orioles are also two games back.
The Mets countered their former phenom with current stud Zack Wheeler (7-4), who was less than phenomenal on Friday. He walked five while laboring through five innings, allowing three runs -- two earned -- on five hits.
Like Wheeler, the Mets had high hopes for Kazmir, who quickly became one of the organization's top prospects after being selected with the 15th overall pick in 2002.
However, with New York fighting to stay in playoff contention in 2004, it shipped the young lefty to Tampa Bay for established starter Victor Zambrano. The Mets finished that season 20 games below .500, Zambrano was gone by 2006, and a year later, Kazmir led the American League with 239 strikeouts.
Finally getting the chance to go face-to-face with his former club, Kazmir flashed the overpowering repertoire that made him so successful early in his career. In the first, third and sixth innings, he struck out the side and didn't walk a batter over the duration of his outing.
"That was the best I've ever seen him pitch, and I saw him pitch in Tampa for awhile," said Mets manager Terry Collins. "He can just overpower you. I think there's always that thing where you want to show the team that traded you that you made a mistake."
The Indians had a 2-0 lead after two innings, with Santana salvaging a bases- loaded no-one out opportunity with a sac fly and Bourn contributing one of his own the following frame.
Santana knocked an RBI single through the middle in the fifth and Wheeler was done after 92 pitches. The Mets may only get four more starts out of the young righty, who is being kept on a strict 170-180 innings limit for the season.
New York's only score came on Justin Turner's first homer of the season in the seventh, but Cleveland was in control of a 4-1 lead at that point following back-to-back doubles from Yan Gomes and Chisenhall in the sixth.
Swisher came up with the bases loaded two innings later and crushed an offering from Tim Byrdak well past the wall in right to account for the final margin.
New York's Andrew Brown struck out four times and Josh Satin fanned on three occasions ... Wheeler was 5-0 in his previous eight road starts ... It was the most strikeouts for Kazmir since fanning a career-best 13 on Aug. 25, 2007 against the Oakland A's ... New York was 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position.