Scott Kazmir Impresses in A’s Debut, Jim Johnson Disappoints Again

Following a disappointing 2-0 loss on Opening Night and a rainout Tuesday night, the Oakland A’s bounced back Wednesday to take the first game of the day-night double header against the Indians behind a dazzling debut from veteran lefty Scott Kazmir and a good showing offensively from their lineup.

Kazmir, pitching against his former teammates, tossed 7.1 innings of shutout baseball, surrendering just three hits and walking none to go along with his five strikeouts.

“At times I don’t think he had his best velocity, but he’s so unpredictable now with four pitches,” said manager Bob Melvin. “He has a great changeup, pitches in and out with his fastball and certainly had good command with it. That’s what it starts with for him, moving the ball around and mixing in his other stuff.

To put it the proper context though, Melvin simply stated: “He was fantastic.”

Offensively, the A’s made up for their poor showing Monday night, clubbing 12 hits and scoring six times to win the game 6-1 and earn their first victory of the season.

Coco Crisp lead off the first inning with  a base hit and later scored on an RBI single off the bat of Yoenis Cespedes. Crisp added a sacrifice fly in the second inning after back-to-back-to-back singles by Alberto Callaspo, Derek Norris and Eric Sogard. Norris would wind up being thrown out at home trying to score on a fielder’s choice off the bat of Josh Donaldson, but Sogard would wind up scoring on an RBI single by Jed Lowrie just one batter later.

Callaspo gave the A’s another two runs in the third inning, connecting for his first homer of the season, a two-run shot, on the first pitch of his at bat.

Oakland’s final run came in the sixth inning with Lowrie and Brandon Moss hitting back-to-back doubles, extending the Oakland lead to 6-0.

Pitching in relief of Kazmir, Dan Otero allowed a run to score in the top of the ninth to bring the final score to 6-1. Otero pitched 1.2 innings, allowing the one run on two hits.

Lowrie, Moss, Cespedes and Callaspo each had two hits in the game. Derek Norris had three hits in his season debut.

In the evening version of the split-doubleheader, Josh Lindblom got the spot-start after being added as the 26th man on the roster. Lindblom was serviceable, pitching 4.2 innings of two-run ball. He gave up five hits, walked two batters and struck out two before handing the ball off to Drew Pomeranz. Lindblom would not factor into the decision as the A’s and Indians exchanged runs throughout the remainder of the game.

In his 2014 debut, and Oakland debut, Pomeranz walked the first batter he faced before getting Asdrubal Cabrera to fly out to Josh Reddick to escape the fifth inning. He got David Murphy to ground out to begin the sixth inning before walking Mike Aviles. Elliot Johnson struck out swinging to end Pomeranz’s night. Luke Gregerson came in and did not allow the inherited runner to score, giving Pomeranz a final line of 1.0 innings pitched, zero hits, two walks, no runs scored.

Gregerson finished the night with 1.1 innings pitched, one run on one hit and one walk.

The A’s offense jumped out to a quick lead again, scoring twice in the first inning to push their lead to 2-0 before Lindblom would allow the Indians on the scoreboard in the fourth inning.

Lowrie singled to center field to bring home Sam Fuld for the first run of the game, and later came around to score himself on an opposite field double by Cespedes.

In the fourth inning, Fuld singled home Reddick to put the A’s back on top 3-2.

Cleveland and Oakland exchanged runs again in the seventh inning. Jason Kipnis scored on a groundout to Josh Donaldson for Cleveland to push the game back into a 3-3 tie. Oakland answered back in their half of the inning though with a RBI single off the bat of Moss to score Reddick and push them back in front 4-3.

Sean Doolittle worked a perfect eighth inning for the A’s, striking out a batter before handing the ball off to new closer Jim Johnson. Following a rocky debut in the opener, Johnson predicted that the next time he would give A’s fans a reason to cheer.

Following 101 saves over the past two seasons with the Baltimore Orioles, Johnson was unable to come through yet again, allowing a leadoff single to Ryan Raburn to kick things off and allow the tying run to reach base. Nick Swisher followed up with a single of his own to move Raburn over to second and put the winning run on with no outs. Kipnis grounded into a fielder’s choice force out at second, putting runners on the corners with just one out.

Kipnis stole second base to eliminate the double play possibility. Johnson then walked Carlos Santana to load the bases as he again heard a small spattering of boos from the home crowd. Michael Brantley singled to right field to drive in two runs and allow the Indians to take a 5-4 lead and give Johnson his first blown save of the season and his second loss of the season. Santana scored on a sacrifice fly to center field to push the score to 6-4, ending Johnson’s night early for the second straight game, exiting again to strong boos this time from the home fans.

Johnson’s final line: 0.2 innings pitched, three runs on three hits and two walks.

Evan Scribner got the A’s out of the inning without any further damage.

Facing Cleveland closer John Axford, Fuld struck out to beginning the bottom of the ninth. Donaldson flied out for the second out of the inning and Lowrie flied out to right field to end the game as Axford showed how a game is supposed to be closed out.

With the loss, the A’s fall to 1-2 on the season, with both losses belonging to Johnson.

The A’s will play the Seattle Mariners beginning tomorrow night at 7:05 at the O.co Coliseum.