It's fitting that Scott Kazmir's return to the major leagues comes in his hometown of Houston.
The veteran left-hander takes the mound for the first time in a little more than two years when he tries to help the Cleveland Indians avoid a sixth straight loss Saturday night against the Astros.
Kazmir last pitched in the majors for the Los Angeles Angels on April 3, 2011. He was placed on the disabled list with lower back tightness shortly after and spent time rehabbing in the minors before the Angels released him in June of that year.
After Kazmir spent 2012 pitching near his home in suburban Houston for the Sugar Land Skeeters of the independent Atlantic League, Cleveland (5-10) signed him to a minor league contract in December. He went 1-0 with a 3.46 ERA in four spring training games to earn a spot in the Indians rotation.
"I had to prove more to myself than anything, being out for so long," he told the team's official website. "I was able to do that. It seemed like every day my game was starting to come together, starting to click."
Kazmir's return was delayed after he suffered an oblique injury prior to the season, but he's finally ready to take a major league mound - and for the first time in his hometown.
"You go out there the first time you want to show out, you want to do real (well)," Kazmir said. "At the same time, you don't want to overthrow. You want to stay within yourself and get your game. You have to slow back on that adrenaline."
He allowed three runs and two homers while striking out seven in 5 2-3 innings of a 3-2 loss to Houston with Tampa Bay in 2008.
Kazmir hopes to help the Indians get back on track after they were outscored 25-11 during a five-game skid. Lonnie Chisenhall hit a two-run homer but Cleveland stranded nine and went 0 for 7 with runners in scoring position in a 3-2 loss Friday.
"We did have opportunities,'' manager Terry Francona said. "I think what happens sometimes is, guys try too hard. We had a couple of chances, and we rolled over."
Asdrubal Cabrera went 1 for 3, but struck out in a seventh consecutive contest. The star shortstop is batting .138 (8 for 58) with 18 strikeouts.
He's 4 for 10 with a double against Philip Humber (0-3, 2.89), who hopes to finally get some decent offensive support.
The right-hander has seen the Astros score one run in his three starts. He gave up two runs in seven innings of a 4-1 loss to the Angels on Sunday.
"As a pitcher, you can't really control wins and losses," Humber said. "You just go out there and try to give the team a chance to win when it's our turn. There are times when I go out there and don't deserve to win and my teammates have picked me up.
"That's happened a lot in the past, so you just keep going."
Humber is 0-2 with an 8.31 ERA in five starts versus Cleveland.
J.D. Martinez and Rick Ankiel homered Friday as the Astros (5-11) snapped a five-game slide. Martinez, however, is day to day after spraining his right knee in the fourth inning.
Four of Ankiel's six hits in 31 at-bats are home runs.
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