Last night was a homecoming for Nathan Karns, pitching in front of family and friends in the area he grew up. Maybe that was nothing to do with it, and this was just a continuation of Karns's season-long first-inning struggles, but the Rays starter was not sharp at the start.
He grazed Delino DeShields Jr. with his second pitch of the game, and then walked the next two batters on a combined nine pitches to load the bases with no outs. His fastball was flying up. His curve wasn't breaking. Curt Casali visited. Then Jim Hickey visited. It worked, sort of, as Adrian Beltre grounded hard to third base, where Evan Longoria fielded, beat the runner to the bag, and got the second out at first, allowing one run to score. That was all Karns gave up in the inning, although there easily could have been much more.
The Rays got the run back in the top of the second, when the red-hot Asdrubal Cabrera hit a one-out double, and Desmond Jennings turned on a pitch and pulled it on a line into left field to single him home, but Josh Hamilton put the Rangers up again with a solo home run in the bottom of the inning.
The Rays got things going again in the top of the third, though, as Kevin Kiermaier singled and Casali was hit to put two men on with no outs. That set the stage for Adrian Beltre to pull off a double play nearly identical to the one Longoria had made in the first inning, except that Mitch Moreland's foot came off the bag as he stretched, and on replay, Brandon Guyer was called safe at first. That was an important overturn, as Longoria sent a liner into the gap to score two runs and put the Rays on top.
That score held for the rest of Karns's outing, but this will be one he will want to forget. Over four and two thirds innings, Karns struck out four batters while walking five. When he walked Shin-Soo Choo with two outs in the fourth, manager Kevin Cash decided not to let him face Prince Fielder again, and brought in lefty-specialist Xavier Cedeno.
I wouldn't say that Cedeno did such a good job against Fielder, but, uh, Kevin Kiermaier.
In the sixth, the Rays loaded the bases, but with two outs, and they did not score, and Cedeno was tasked with the entire bottom of the inning, which he managed better (albeit with an error) than he had the one lefty in the fifth.That brought the game to Steve Geltz in the seventh, and that's where things went horribly wrong.
Geltz got the first two outs quickly, but against Deshields he made a mistake. Brian Anderson broke it down well. Geltz was trying to go down and away, but he lost his mechanics and the ball sailed high and armside on him. Usually when this happens, the pitch misses the strike zone by about three feet, the batter dives out of the way, and everyone has a good chuckle and tries again, but because of the intended location, Geltz's straight meatball sailed right into Deshields's wheelhouse, up and in, and the leadoff man jumped it.
It was a no-doubt home run to left, Deshields's first of the season. Probably that was the only pitch-type and location where that could have happened.
Jake McGee was asked to preserve the tie in the eighth inning, and he could not. Betre singled, and then went first to third on a Moreland grounder up the middle, aggressively running on Kiermaier's arm. Then Josh Hamilton hit one of the more ridiculous sac flies you'll ever see. In a 1-2 count, McGee climbed the ladder, bringing 97 mph well above the strike zone, and yet Hamilton was all over it, flying to the edge of the warning track in center field. That's the bat talent that once made Hamilton a once-in-a-generation prospect.
Another single up the middle from Elvis Andrus put the Rangers up two, and the Rays did not have another comeback in them.
Some other notes:
- This one hurts, because it was winnable, despite a shaky performance from Karns.
- There was a weird replay where Casali was caught by a throw to third base. He slid past the bag, reaching back to hold onto it with his finger tips. The umpire at third called him out on the tag, but then called him safe when the ball popped out of Beltre's glove after the swipe. There was a definite pause before the ball popped out, and the Rangers challenged, perhaps thinking it had happened on the transfer. The replays turned out to clearly show that Casali's hand had never come off the bag, but he was called out, with the replay officials perhaps deciding that Beltre had gotten his shoulder with the swipe before the rest of the play even started.
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