Righty allows first hit of ballgame in stellar matchup
By Troy Provost-Heron
ST. PETERSBURG -- While Marco Estrada was in the midst of a perfect-game bid, Nathan Karns was in the process of going stride for stride with him in the Rays' 1-0 loss to the Blue Jays Wednesday at Tropicana Field.
That is, until the sixth inning, when the right-hander watched his five-inning no-hit bid fall by the wayside and slowly evolve into the foundation of a big scoring chance for Toronto.
After getting Chris Colabello to fly out to right field to begin the frame, Karns surrendered the first hit of the ballgame for either side to Kevin Pillar, who went on to steal second and third base with two away. Things only got worse from there as Karns allowed back-to-back walks to Jose Reyes and Josh Donaldson.
"I got ahead of Donaldson and tried to make too fine of pitches, and it cost me another walk," Karns said. "It's stuff like that that I need to avoid, especially with runners in scoring position. I know they are going to be aggressive, so I just need to execute my pitches and just let them put the ball in play and let my defense make a play behind me."
With the bases loaded, Jose Bautista, who had had an RBI in five of his past six games and reached base safely in 31 of his past 32 games prior to Wednesday, strode to the plate, but on an 0-1 count, the right fielder popped one up to the left side of the infield where third baseman Evan Longoria snagged it to get the Rays out of the jam.
"With the bases loaded, he's either going to hit or he's not," Karns said. "I'm not going to walk him at that point. Fortunately, he swung at a curveball that was just out of his reach and he popped up in the infield."
Karns was pulled in the seventh after allowing two singles to lead off the inning, but Kevin Jepsen kept the Blue Jays off the scoreboard by retiring the next three batters, two via strikeout.
Before those sixth- and seventh-inning jams, though, Karns pitched spectacularly, due in large part to the added help of his changeup,
"His changeup was outstanding today," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "His curveball, when it's on, he's a pretty good pitcher. Very similar to the top of the zone with the fastball, but when you add that third pitch in, that being the changeup, he kept some guys off balance."
Karns could not recall a time when carried a no-hitter that deep into a ballgame, but was glad he got the opportunity Wednesday.
"It was fun to experience that," Karns said. "It was just one of those things I won't forget."
Troy Provost-Heron is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.