As a baseball fan there are a lot of feelings you become accustomed to, but many you never get use to. One of those is that sinking feeling when your team is struggling to score runs, has scored three runs in the first inning in what feels like forever, and then two innings later lets it all slip away. That is what the Nationals did tonight.
After Karns quickly mowed through the Orioles first three batters on three quick ground outs the Nationals came to bat. Span ripped the first pitch he saw down the first base line, but Chris Davis scooped it and took it to the bag himself. Lombardozzi and Zimmerman then put the ball in play with authority but not to fielders, and to cap it off LaRoche hit a long homerun to right field to spot Karns and the Nats to a three run lead.
Karns looked good in his debut pitching 4 1/3 innings allowing three runs on five hits with three strikeouts and two walks. All in all he looked decent navigating a tough line-up. He featured a mid-90s fastball and a high 80s curve. At the age of 25 with only those two pitches Karns future may very well be in the bullpen as it is likely too late in his development to start working on a change-up and there aren’t too many major league starting pitchers with only two pitches.
The Nationals didn’t win this game because of pitching. After Karns gave up solo homers to Chris Davis and JJ Hardy in the top of the fourth the Nats responded. Adam LaRoche started the bottom of the inning with a walk and two batters later Tyler Moore crushed a homer to left and immediately following that Roger Bernadina hit a homer deep to right off the facing of the upper deck. It was a much needed boast from two key bench bats that have not been up to snuff and have caused the Nats left field and right field production in May to be far, far below average.
Before the inning was over the Nats would have four runs on four hits, seven total runs, and a four run lead. Karns was now in line for the win if he could get through the fifth, but alas he couldn’t. After striking out pinch hitter Steve Pearce, Karns proceeded to walk McLouth and Machado, and that was it. Zach Duke would enter the game to face Nick Markakis. In theory a left handed pitcher should have the advantage against left handed batters, but against Duke lefties have a .928 OPS on the season. Markakis would hit the ball hard but right at Ian Desmond who turned the 6-3 double play.
Before the night was over the Nats would tack on two more runs, one of those being a second Adam LaRoche homerun. The Nats offense has been scuffling so badly they have forced their manager to grow a beard worse than Alec Baldwin in that Capital One commercial, but tonight the bats broke out and got key hits from the bottom of the order and bench players that haven’t hit all season. Overall it was good to see, and if it can continue the Nats may actually start playing like the team they were expected to be, but for tonight it is just one game.