Kazmir makes strides in Angels' loss

Kazmir makes strides in Angels' loss

ARLINGTON -- Scott Kazmir stood at his locker and spoke softly.

Even though he had just went as deep in a game as he had all season, Kazmir wasn't ready to accept any moral victories after the Angels fell to the Rangers, 4-3, on Monday night at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.

Kazmir spent all week working on his delivery and trying to get an over-the-top motion instead of a three-quarters delivery. In fact, he even threw a 62-pitch bullpen session on Saturday to work out the kinks.

But, according to Kazmir, the same problems were still there. He wasn't pleased with his delivery, saying he "catapulted" the ball with only his shoulder, rather than using his elbow.

"It's just frustrating," Kazmir said. "It was just all shoulder tonight. But I did manage to get through seven and keep us in the ballgame.

"It's just bad habits. I feel great [health-wise], it's just not there yet."

Added Angels manager Mike Scioscia: "I think there were some things he did well and some things that are still coming. There are some definite positives from Scott's start and we saw glimpses of it. He's certainly not where we hope he's going to get to."

Indeed, Kazmir still has a ways to go. In particular, he struggled in the third inning, giving up four runs on five hits. The defense didn't help him out, either.

Texas' No. 9 hitter, Julio Borbon, led off with an infield single and advanced to second on an error. Then, four batters later, Vladimir Guerrero doubled to right on a shallow fly that right fielder Reggie Willits might have been able to catch but didn't. It certainly wasn't a routine play but one that could have helped bail Kazmir out of a jam.

"I felt like I should've had it, but it wasn't an easy play," Willits said. "I slid for it, but I didn't know if I'd run into [first baseman Kendry Morales]."

Rangers slugger Nelson Cruz followed Guerrero's double with his own two-run double to give Texas a 4-0 lead.

After that, though, Kazmir settled down and finished with four scoreless innings. In the fourth and fifth innings, he induced inning-ending double plays. He then had a 1-2-3 sixth inning and ended his night by getting outs on a groundout, strikeout and flyout in the seventh.

Kazmir said there were a couple positives to be gained from this start, including continued progress with his slider. But his velocity still hasn't gotten back to where it once was and his release point isn't where he'd like it to be.

"It's just about putting all the little things together," Kazmir said. "This one hurt because we thought we had a chance."

The Angels did have a couple chances late in the game.

With the Angels trailing by a run in the eighth, outfielder Torii Hunter led off the inning with a sharp grounder between short and third. But Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus nabbed the ball in shallow left field and fired to first to gun down Hunter.

To Hunter's disbelief, first-base umpire Dana DeMuth called him out.

"I was safe," said Hunter, who had a solo home run in the sixth. "I looked at the replay and the first baseman pulled his glove back [before he caught the ball]. I know the game, though, and that was a [heck] of a play. It's the best play that's been made on me. Ever. ... That guy [Andrus] was in left field and made that play. That was sweet the more I think about it."

In the ninth, Angels catcher Mike Napoli almost had his second home run of the game, sending a deep shot to center off Rangers closer Neftali Feliz. What would have been a game-tying blast, though, ended up falling a couple feet short in Borbon's glove at the wall.

"I thought it was hit decent enough to go, but it didn't and we lost," Napoli said.

In the seventh, however, the Angels never threatened against their former teammate, Darren Oliver. Oliver pitched a perfect inning for the Rangers, and enjoyed facing his former team.

"It's hard to look at those guys in the face when I'm pitching," Oliver said. "I might start laughing. I know those guys too well. I know them pretty good, they know me pretty good. It's fun."

While it was fun for Oliver, another road loss certainly wasn't fun for the Angels to endure. Not only did the loss snap the Angels' three-game winning streak, it also marked their ninth loss in their past 11 road games. But the Angels aren't going to read too much into the record differential between home and away at this point in the season.

"We're not worried about playing at home or the road, we're more worried about playing baseball," Scioscia said. "We need to go to a visiting ballpark and take that game on the road. And we're not doing that. Part of it's on offense, part of it's on defense, part of it's on controlling secondary leads and part of it is trying to put together a ballgame that's going to be good enough to give yourself a win."

Drew Davison is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.