While there’s not much to look forward to at this point in the season, I view these remaining 14 games as an audition of sorts. Players like Grant Balfour and today’s starter Jeremy Hellickson are pitching to prove their worth on the 2015 roster, and players like Curt Casali and last night’s starter Nate Karns are trying to make a statement. In the case of Nate Karns, he made quite a statement with his first major league win.
Karns struggled through a tumultuous 25-pitch first inning, though he settled down and averaged just under 15 pitches per inning from that point forward. He started off with a five pitch, leadoff walk of Jose Reyes before plunking Jose Bautista to put two on with no outs. But the tide began to change with Edwin Encarnacion at the plate. Karns coaxed a double play grounder to third to delete both the lead runner and Encarnacion, then, after an Adam Lind walk, Karns forced Navi to pound the ball into the turf to escape the first inning unharmed.
The main criticism of Karns, much like Archer, has always been that his fastball command can be spotty from time to time — something that was noticeable in the first. However, Karns spotted his plus fastball on the edges of the zone from the second inning on, even elevating it a few times for a put-away pitch. The 26 year-old RHP paired his fastball with a power curve that was just filthy.
Karns’ breaking pitch isn’t a slow curve like that of Jake Odorizzi or Alex Cobb, rather it sits somewhere mid 80’s (he dialed one up to 86 MPH for a swinging third strike). The movement on his curve wasn’t life changing, however it had good depth and run. That movement worked in tandem with the velocity and his ability to locate the pitch, making for a deadly fastball/curveball combination.
Karns’ final line: 7.0 IP/2 H/0 ER/2 BB/8 K 114 pitches
Karns really stole the show last night. I’m interested to see if he can maintain this consistency over his remaining three or four starts. If so, the battle for the fifth starter spot next year promises to be intriguing.
Offensively, both teams only mustered a pair of hits each, with the difference being a Ryan Hanigan leadoff homer in the third off J.A. Happ. Hanigan is batting .324 since returning from the DL.
Jake McGee was wild once again, and it makes you wonder if Maddon’s over-reliance on the southpaw is having an effect on him now? McGee sent an inside fastball toward Jose Bautista, who hit the deck in order to avoid being hit. Just before that, McGee appeared to hit Jose Reyes on the hand with a pitch. However, the HBP would later be reviewed and overturned. With a smirk on the face of Reyes, the shortstop was sent back to the batters box where he popped out on a bunt attempt on the very next pitch.
Grant Balfour came in and locked down the Rays victory.
The New What Next
Jeremy Hellickson will square off with RA Dickey this afternoon. We all know where this game is headed. You can read about the pitching matchup in our series preview.
Rays 9/13/14 Starting Lineup
- Your tweet of the day:
— Marc Topkin (@TBTimes_Rays) September 13, 2014
- A reminder, there is no local TV for Rays today. Listen in to Andy & Dave on the radio.
- The Rays listing TBA for Monday’s starter; I’m assuming that means Colome is coming up.