Nate Karns had to deal with an hour and 21 minute rain delay before making his MLB debut on Tuesday evening, and he’d have to face the Orioles recently called up top pitching prospect Kevin Gausman in front of a near-capacity Nationals Park crowd.
Karns got things started well in his MLB debut as he retired the first three batters he saw in the first inning. He got two batters to ground out to Steve Lombardozzi, and Adam LaRoche made a great lunging grab at first and threw it to Karns to end the inning.
The Nats offense wanted to do its part early to give the young pitcher making his debut some cushion, and they did just that. Following singles by Lombardozzi and Ryan Zimmerman, Adam LaRoche hit a home run to right-center field that just made it over the wall and gave the Nats an early 3-0 lead.
The Orioles got one back in the second on a Matt Wieters double that scored Chris Davis. Roger Bernadina misplayed a ball in right on the Wieters double when the ball hit the cutout in foul territory. Wieters still would’ve had a double, but he might have been able to keep Davis from scoring if he anticipated the redirection.
In the top of the fourth inning, Karns got his first taste of how hitters at the major league level don’t make mistakes like they do in the minors. Chris Davis hit his league-leading 17th home run of the year on a line drive in to the Nats bullpen, and two batters later J.J. Hardy put one in the Orioles pen to tie the game up at three.
In the bottom of the fourth, Gausman got the same lesson. LaRoche walked to lead off the inning, which was followed by back-to-back home runs by Tyler Moore and Roger Bernadina, who had both been struggling quite a bit from the plate. Kurt Suzuki singled and scored on a Denard Span double to give them a 7-3 lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
Nate Karns’ debut ended after just 4.1 innings, but he did his job nicely. He allowed three runs, two of them on homers, five hits, two walks, and struck out three. Zach Duke came in and bridged the gap to the back end of the bullpen nicely in 1.2 innings of work. He allowed just one hit, which was negated on a nice double play started by Ryan Zimmerman.
Drew Storen pitched well in the seventh inning, and Tyler Clippard came in to pitch the eighth. He immediately got himself into a jam, allowing back-to-back singles to start the inning. After quite a few pitches, he was able to retire the next three batters on fly outs to end the inning with no real damage.
The Nats offense wasn’t quite ready to be quiet yet as LaRoche hit his second home run of the game in the eighth inning to pad the lead a bit. Then, Desmond doubled and was driven home on a Bernadina single to make it a 9-3 game. With the large lead, Fernando Abad came in to close out the win.
Karns showed almost exactly what his scouting report indicated we’d see from him. He had an electric fastball, even lighting it up to 97 mph a couple times on the gun early in the game. We saw his changeup sparingly, which wasn’t anything special, and his curveball showed moments of dominance. He helped the Nats get a big win as they move through a tough stretch of games and deal with numerous injuries.
The Nats are now bound for Baltimore for two-games to finish the season series against the Orioles.