CLEVELAND -- It's been a long time coming, but Scott Kazmir has finally won another major-league game.
The Cleveland left-hander pitched six strong innings to pick up his first win in over two years as the Indians beat the Minnesota Twins 7-3 on Saturday. The win extended the Indians' winning streak to six games, the longest current streak in the majors.
Kazmir allowed two runs with seven strikeouts and one walk. The victory was his first major-league win since Sept. 9, 2010 when he beat Tampa Bay 6-3 while pitching for the Angels.
"It feels good to get that monkey off my back. It's been a while," he said.
Kazmir's seven strikeouts were his most in a major-league game since he fanned seven on May 1, 2010 vs. Detroit. It's been a long road back for the 29-year-old former two-time All-Star with Tampa Bay. Injuries and some mechanical flaws derailed Kazmir's career to the point that last year he was pitching for an independent minor-league team in Sugarland, Texas.
"I told myself then that it was going to be a slow go getting back and that there were going to be some bumps along the way," said Kazmir, who signed a minor-league contract with the Indians during the offseason and won a spot in their rotation during spring training.
"We pull for all our guys, but it's hard not to have a soft spot for Scott, considering all he's gone through to get back here," said Indians manager Terry Francona.
"He threw between 89 and 93 mph and had a nice little breaking ball, a cutter, which we knew," said Twins manager Ron Gardenhire of Kazmir. "He got a lot of pitches called on the inner half of the plate. He threw well."
The Indians gave Kazmir a lead in the first inning, thanks to home runs from Jason Kipnis and Nick Swisher off Twins starter Kevin Correia, who came into the game with a record of 3-0 and a 1.64 ERA in his last three starts.
Kipnis, the second batter Correia faced, belted a 3-1 pitch into the seats in right field for his second home run. One out later Swisher blasted another 3-1 pitch into the seats in right for his third home run to make it 2-0.
The Twins reached Kazmir for a run in the top of the second, which began with a double down the left-field line by Trevor Plouffe, who later scored on a two-out single by Pedro Florimon.
The Indians answered with two more runs in the bottom of the second on three consecutive two-out singles by Ezequiel Carrera, Michael Brantley, and Kipnis, giving Cleveland a 4-1 lead.
From the third to the fifth innings Kazmir settled in and at one point struck out four batters in a row and five out of six. The only batter that didn't strike out in that span hit a home run. Aaron Hicks, leading off the fifth inning, hit the first pitch from Kazmir into the left-field bleachers for his first career home run, cutting the Cleveland lead to 4-2.
"Other than the second inning, which was a grind for him, he kept his pitch counts down in the other innings," said Francona. "And he started throwing his fastball inside for strikes, which opened up the plate for him."
Kipnis tripled and Cabrera doubled in a two-run Cleveland seventh, and the Twins scored a run off reliever Joe Smith in the eighth to cut the Indians' lead to 6-3. Carrera made it 7-3 with an RBI single in the bottom of the eighth.
The Indians have scored six or more runs in all six of the games in their winning streak.
"We're doing a good job of extending innings and then doing some damage when we do extend them," said Francona. "Our at-bats have been really good."
Correia pitched five innings and was charged with four runs on six hits, with four strikeouts and two walks as his record fell to 3-2.
NOTES: Joe Mauer's next double will move him past Gary Gaetti (252) and into sole possession of seventh place on the Twins' all-time list. ... Right-hander Mike Pelfrey, who will start for the Twins Sunday in the series finale, will be making his first career start vs. the Indians. ... Swisher was back in the Indians' lineup Saturday after missing the previous three games with a sore left shoulder. ... Indians reliever Vinnie Pestano was unavailable Saturday due to some soreness in his right elbow. ... Indians outfielder Carrera, claimed off waivers from Philadelphia on Thursday, made his first start Saturday in right field.