Karns Struggles in Highly Anticipated Debut

Photo courtesy Mark Pynes / PennLive

Photo courtesy Mark Pynes / PennLive

Despite owning the Eastern League’s worst team batting average at .134, the New Britain Rock Cats broke the heavy lumber out as they chased Nate Karns in the fourth inning and breezed to a 9-2 victory over the Senators. Karns allowed seven runs on seven hits including two home runs as he lasted only 3.2 innings before giving way to Matt Swynenberg and Marcos Frias. For the second straight day the Senators struggled at the plate, scratching out five hits and failing to take advantage of seven walks and three hit batsmen.

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No offense to the Senators’ first four pitchers in the rotation, but my anticipation for Karns’ start on Monday night at Metro Bank Park was off the charts. Karns, the Nationals’ number five rated prospect, came to Harrisburg after a stellar 2012 season spent between Hagerstown and Potomac for which he was named the organization’s Minor League Pitcher of the Year.

Unfortunately for Karns and the fans who came to see his Double-A debut, not much went the way he hoped. Although he showcased his 94-96 mph fastball, he had difficulty locating it and the New Britain Rock Cats made him seemingly pay for every mistake he made. Manager Matt LeCroy summed it up, “The command of his fastball was off. That was the killer for him tonight.”

LeCroy also pointed to Karns’ emotions on finally getting his chance on the bump, “I think he was a little amped. The ball was elevated and it’s hard to pitch up…They took advantage of every pitch that he threw up.”

Player of the Game: Marcos Frias (2 IP, 1 H, 4 K)

From the Windup

• A day after going 1 for 16 with runners in scoring position, the Rock Cats continued to struggle in that situation garnering only one hit in six attempts. That one hit was huge though as it was Josmil Pinto’s bases-clearing triple that broke the 1-1 tie and started the onslaught.

• Taking injured Matt Skole’s roster spot, Jerad Head made his Senators debut as the designated hitter and went 0-1 with a strikeout, a walk, and was hit by a pitch twice. LeCroy said the plan for Head moving forward is to play mostly first base and some DH, “He provides us some leadership and a veteran presence in our clubhouse.”

• Typically Monday night games are sparsely attended, but tonight’s turnout was extremely meager. The paid attendance was announced as 1,348 and I doubt there were more than 100 fans here by the end of the game.

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