In June 2002 the New York Mets selected an 18-year-old lefty out of Cypress Falls (Tex.) High School with the 15th overall pick.

That lefty never has pitched for the Mets. Friday night at Progressive Field he faced them for the first time -- and had himself a party.

Scott Kazmir struck out 12 in six scoreless innings as the Indians cruised to an 8-1 victory. The Tribe scored runs in the first second fifth and sixth then Nick Swisher brought home four with a blast in the eighth.

The Indians (75-65) have won three in a row and four of five to remain in the thick of the wild-card chase. They and Baltimore pulled within two games of the second wild card when Eric Wedge's Mariners defeated the Rays late Friday night in Seattle.

The not-so-amazin' Mets slipped to 63-76.

"It seems like we're doing the right things at the right time'' Swisher said. "I wasn't here last year but going from a team that lost close to 100 games (68-94) to the atmosphere we have now is tremendous. We're super- super-confident about our chances. We're not out of this.''

Kazmir (8-7 4.17 ERA) allowed four hits and did not walk a batter. He threw 72 of 97 pitches for strikes. He repeatedly challenged with mid-90s fastballs and Mets batters kept flailing. He mixed in a nasty changeup.

Kazmir was coming off an August in which he went 1-3 with a 5.40 ERA in five starts and mentioned arm and body fatigue. Having hit a "wall'' was understandable given that he did not pitch in the majors last season. Kazmir though said earlier in the week that he might be getting a second wind.

It certainly appeared as if order had been restored against New York which traded Kazmir to Tampa Bay in July 2004. It likely was no coincidence that Kazmir's fastball in particular featured so much life.

"I think he was a little jazzed up yeah'' Indians manager Terry Francona said of his pitcher's mindset for his first start against the organization that drafted him. "However guys do it -- whether it's the chicken or whatever -- I don't care. As long as it's not against the law.''

The Kazmanian Devil downplayed the obvious storyline.

“We’re playing for a playoff spot right now'' Kazmir said. "That’s the one thing that I’m thinking about when I go to the mound. It’s great that it was against the team that drafted me but that definitely wasn’t going through my mind. Just being able to go deep into the game and throw up zeroes...I think that was the important thing.”
Kazmir who has 131 strikeouts in 136 innings of 25 starts this season struck out the side in the first third and sixth. He became the first major leaguer with a start of six or fewer scoreless innings 12-plus strikeouts and zero walks since the Rangers' Matt Perisho on Oct. 3 1999 at Anaheim Calif.

The Indians signed Kazmir who pitched in the Atlantic League and Puerto Rican Winter League last year to a minor-league contract in January. He made the club as the fifth starter.

"As soon as I found out that we picked him up the first person I called was Tito'' Swisher said of Francona. "I said 'Hey man give me his number because I want to call and let him know how excited I am. He was pretty much playing catch in his backyard last year and now he's going out throwing 95 96 and really just dominating games. I could not be happier that we have him over here.''

With the 16th overall pick in 2002 the Oakland Athletics selected Swisher out of Ohio State.

"We always joke about that'' Swisher said.

Swisher's eighth career slam came off lefty Tim Byrdak.

"I think that will go a long way toward helping Swish relax a little bit'' Francona said. "He's been trying so hard. Sometimes guys grind too hard.''

Swisher is hitting .239 with 16 homers and 50 RBI in 124 games. The Tribe is 12-4 when he goes deep.