Scott Kazmir's first season with the Los Angeles Dodgers has thus far been a letdown. Dan Straily's first with the Cincinnati Reds has been a pleasant surprise, and he hasn't even been with the club for two months.
They'll go at it Wednesday night at Dodger Stadium in the finale of a three-game series with the Dodgers seeking a sweep and the Reds just content with ending a nine-game losing streak.
Kazmir (3-3, 5.23 ERA), whose career resurgence hit a bit of a snag after being sent from Oakland to Houston in July, had a full-on regression to the crippling control issues that plagued him at the end of his time with Tampa Bay and into his seasons with the Los Angeles Angels in his latest start.
The left-hander gave up five runs, two homers and a career-high seven walks in Friday's 7-6 loss in San Diego but avoided the decision.
"I just felt like I was fighting myself for pretty much the whole game," Kazmir said. "I was getting behind in counts and not throwing good pitches down in the count."
He had no such problems in his only start against the Reds – a win in which he gave up a run and eight hits in seven innings three years ago while with Cleveland.
Straily (2-1, 2.85) has been Cincinnati's best starter despite being acquired off waivers April 1 and making his first three appearances with the club out of the bullpen.
The right-hander has gone 2-1 with a 2.77 ERA in seven starts while never surrendering more than three runs. That's included getting away with walking 4.38 batters per nine innings in those starts, but Straily has limited his last two opponents to a run and 10 hits in 11 innings.
Straily held Seattle to a run and four hits in six innings of Friday's 8-3 loss and wasn't stuck with the decision.
He's beginning to understand six innings, which is 1/3 of an inning off his season high, isn't enough. Over his last four starts, he's averaged 18.1 pitches per inning, which is up even from his already-high 17.8 career mark.
"I have to find a way to get as deep into the game as possible," Straily said. "Six? I always want more. I have to find a way to get my pitch count down earlier in games and find that rhythm earlier to take us deeper into the ball game. Six is better than five, but it's still not seven."
His two games against the Dodgers came in relief in 2014, but the two innings resulted in six runs, four hits and three walks. Howie Kendrick is 5 for 14 against him.
Los Angeles (24-23) has won three straight after dropping six of seven. The Dodgers have also won eight straight over Cincinnati while limiting the Reds to 14 runs and a .169 batting average.
Cincinnati (15-31), meanwhile, can't get anything right on the mound. The Reds have posted a 7.20 ERA on their nine-game skid, though that's hardly noteworthy after losing 13 straight as recently as Sept. 20-Oct. 2.