CLEVELAND – Scott Kazmir struck out a season-high 12 in six innings, Nick Swisher hit a grand slam and the Cleveland Indians continued their playoff push with an 8-1 win over the New York Mets on Friday night.
Kazmir (8-7) struck out at least one batter in each inning, including the side in the first, third and sixth. The left-hander, who has been pushed back in the rotation for extra rest over the last month, held the Mets to four hits, allowed no walks and hit a batter in winning for the first time since Aug. 4.
The Mets took Kazmir with the 15th overall pick in the 2002 draft, but he never pitched a game for them. Kazmir was dealt to Tampa Bay two years later for pitcher Victor Zambrano.
The trade tuned out to be one of the worst in Mets history as Kazmir made the All-Star team twice with the Rays and Zambrano went 10-14 in parts of three seasons in New York, and was out of baseball in 2007.
Kazmir, signed as a minor league free agent after pitching in an independent league last season, fell one strikeout short of his career high, which came when he struck out 13 against Oakland on Aug. 25, 2007.
Swisher’s grand slam came in the eighth and Carlos Santana added two RBIs.
Cleveland entered Friday three games out of the second wild-card spot. The Indians have won three of four on their homestand after losing ground in the playoff chase during a 3-6 road trip.
Mets pitcher Zack Wheeler (7-4) allowed three runs in five innings and lost for the first time in his career on the road. The right-hander, who was called up on June 18, won his first five decisions away from Citi Field.
Justin Turner’s seventh-inning homer, his first of the season, accounted for the Mets’ run.
The Indians played the game without outfielder Michael Brantley, who returned to his home in Florida to be with his wife, who is expecting their first child.
Cleveland’s first two runs came on sacrifice flies by Santana in the first and Michael Bourn in the second. Santana added an RBI single in the fifth and Lonnie Chisenhall added a run-scoring double in the sixth.
New York got a runner to third with one out in the fifth. Juan Lagares singled, extending his hitting streak to a career-high 11 games. Catcher Yan Gomes’ pickoff attempt sailed down the right field line, moving Lagares to third. Kazmir struck out Wilmer Flores and retired Ernie Young on a groundout.
Swisher’s grand slam was the eighth of his career.
The Indians’ first three hitters of the game reached base before Santana’s fly ball to center scored Bourn.
A walk and a throwing error by Flores put runners on second and third with one out in the second. Bourn’s fly ball to right scored Chisenhall.
Drew Stubbs started the fifth with a single and stole second. Bourn walked before Stubbs took third on a fly ball. Santana’s single up the middle made it 3-0.
Back-to-back doubles by Gomes and Chisenhall added a run in the sixth.
Wheeler, 23, is considered one of the top prospects in baseball. The Mets won 10 of his first 14 starts and he’s only the second rookie in team history to win five straight road decisions in one season. Jerry Koosman won his first six road decisions in 1968.