CLEVELAND — At this time a year ago, Scott Kazmir wasn't pitching anywhere — not even for the Sugar Land Skeeters.
"I don't think about that anymore," Kazmir said. "It's too stressful."
He's in a much better place now.
Kazmir continued his remarkable comeback story Friday night, pitching seven innings while Jason Kipnis drove in three runs, leading the Cleveland Indians to a 5-1 win over the Minnesota Twins on Friday night.
Kazmir (4-4) gave up five hits, including a leadoff homer to Brian Dozier in the sixth. The left-hander, who has had expected ups and downs and entered the season winless since 2010, struck out seven, including five in his final two innings.
He has been a pleasant addition for the Indians, who signed him during the winter after he pitched in the independent Atlantic League last season.
"I'm happy for him," Indians first baseman Mark Reynolds said. "You know, being out of baseball, playing independent ball and finding his way back. It's just a great story. I've been really impressed with the way he's been able to throw strikes all year. He may get hit around a little bit, but he just keeps pounding the zone."
Kipnis hit a sacrifice fly — to the second baseman — off Samuel Deduno (3-2) in the third and added a two-run single in the seventh as the Indians won their third straight and seventh in nine games since losing eight in a row.
The Twins came in riding a three-game winning streak. They homered four times in an 8-4 win Thursday to complete a sweep of the Chicago White Sox.
Kazmir, who hadn't won since May 30, cooled Minnesota off.
"It seemed like he got better when he got guys on base," Twins first baseman Justin Morneau said. "We were one hit away a couple of times. Sometimes you get them and sometimes you don't. Today we didn't."
It was a much-needed outing for Kazmir, who had felt good in his previous three starts but acknowledged trying to throw too hard got him in trouble. He's not where he was as a two-time all-star with Tampa Bay (2006, 2008), but the 29-year-old believes he's getting back to his previous form.
"It's getting there," he said. "I took a big step in the direction with this start."
Francona expected there would be some peaks and valleys for Kazmir, and during the pitcher's recent slide encouraged him to stay positive.
"If we thought he would get through the whole year without some hiccups, that's probably unrealistic," Francona said. "This was more of the guy that we expect to see. He bounced back and pitched a really good game."
NOTES: Indians 1B Nick Swisher took batting practice and could return to the lineup today after missing five games with a sore left shoulder.