It was a fastball meant to sail over the outside part of the plate, but Scott Kazmir doesn’t always have the best command, and he didn’t on this pitch.
Instead, the first inning fastball to Chase Utley caught too much of the plate, and Utley sent the ball into the seats in right field to jump start the Phillies 3-2 victory Wednesday night in Game 1 of the World Series.
“Just one mistake and it cost me,” Kazmir said of Utley’s two-run homer.
It was the third time in four postseason starts that Kazmir allowed two runs in the first inning. It was not his worst start of the postseason. That would be Game 2 of the American League Championship Series when Boston knocked Kazmir around for three home runs and five runs in 4 1/3 innings.
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Yet Kazmir hurt himself with his inability to work ahead of hitters.
“It was more of me falling behind in the count,” he said. “In too many at-bats I didn’t throw too many good pitches on the first and second pitch.”
Kazmir allowed three runs on six hits in six innings. He walked four and struck out four.
It was considered a quality start, but with the way Philadelphia starter Cole Hamels was pitching, three runs were too many.
“I thought Kaz did a really good job,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said. “That was probably the best command he had in a while. They had some hits. They were pretty good with two strikes.”
The Rays aren’t very familiar with the Phillies, and they learned something Wednesday: The National League champs can work an at-bat and batting with two strikes doesn’t seem to faze them.
“I thought they had some really good two-strike at-bats,” Maddon said. “Little softies, use the opposite field, which is good. Good stuff.”
Utley’s homer came on a 2-2 pitch.
“It wasn’t easy tonight,” Kazmir said. “I felt like I had to battle every inning.”
Kazmir allowed either a hit or a walk in every inning.
He was helped by his defense in the second when Philadelphia loaded the bases with a leadoff single by Shane Victorino and a pair of walks. But B.J. Upton helped Kazmir escape the jam when he threw Victorino out at home plate after catching a fly ball by Jimmy Rollins in center field.
The Phillies took a 3-0 lead in the fourth. Victorino and Pedro Feliz singled to get things started. Both moved up a base on a grounder to first. Victorino scored when Carlos Ruiz grounded out to shortstop.
The Rays were able to answer with single runs in the fourth (a solo homer by Carl Crawford) and the fifth (an RBI double by Akinori Iwamura). But with Hamel in command, the damage had already been done by Utley.
“They beat us with that home run in the first inning,” Maddon said.