Nathan Karns made his MLB debut in his fifth season in the Washington Nationals' organization but only his third on the mound. He signed for $225,000 after the Nats selected him out of Texas Tech with the first pick of the 12th Round of the 2009 Draft. Karns was the 352nd overall pick that June.
The right-hander was (3-2) with a 2.67 ERA, 17 walks (5.04 BB/9) and 24 Ks (7.12 K/9) in 30.1 IP in his one year at North Carolina State, then the Arlington, Texas-born pitcher joined the Texas Tech Red Raiders' rotation in 2008, making 12 starts in which he had an 8.46 ERA with 48 Ks (8.64 K/9) in 50.0 IP.
After labrum surgery cost Karns the 2010 season, the Nationals had the 6'3'', 230 lb right-hander throw 55.1 innings with their Gulf Coast and NY/Penn League affiliates in 2011. A strong 2012 campaign split between Low-A Hagerstown and Class-A Advanced Potomac earned Karns recognition as the Nats' 2012 Minor League Pitcher of the Year. Karns started the 2013 season at Double-A Harrisburg, and was (4-2) with a 4.60 ERA, 3.53 FIP, 18 walks (3.60 BB/9) and 55 Ks (11.0 K/9) in 45.0 IP before he was called up to the majors on Tuesday.
46 games, 40 starts and 216.1 IP into his professional career, Karns made his MLB debut on Tuesday night in the nation's capital, holding a Baltimore Orioles' lineup that entered the game with a .284/.344/.467 line against right-handed pitchers to five hits, two walks and three earned runs, two on home runs by Chris Davis and J.J. Hardy and one on an RBI double by Matt Wieters.
Wieters hit a 94 mph 1-2 fastball to center to drive in a run in the second. Davis hit a 95 mph 1-2 fastball out to right. Hardy hit a 93 mph 2-0 fastball out to left. Karns threw 85 pitches total in 4.1 IP and left two runners on for Zach Duke, who needed two pitches to get an inning-ending double play and lock in Karns' line for his MLB debut.
The Baltimore Orioles drafted Kevin Gausman with the 4th pick of the 1st Round of the 2012 Draft. The right-hander out of LSU was coming off a sophomore season with the Tigers in which he was (12-2) with a 2.77 ERA, 135 Ks (9.82 K/9) and a .229 BAA over 17 starts, one appearance in relief and 123.2 IP when he was the first pitcher taken in the draft last June. He signed for $4.32M.
Gausman made five starts between the Orioles' NY/Penn League and Low-A affiliates in 2012, with a 3.60 ERA, one walk and 15 Ks in 15.0 IP. In eight starts and 46.1 IP at Double-A in the O's system in 2013, Gausman was (2-4) with a 3.11 ERA, 2.44 FIP, five walks (0.97 BB/9) and 49 Ks (9.52 K/9) before he was called up to make his MLB debut 61.1 IP into his professional career.
"The future is now," O's Executive VP Dan Duquette told reporters as quoted on SI.com. "He's throwing strikes with three pitches. He does that consistently. And he has excellent control." In the 22-year-old starter's MLB debut last week in Toronto, the right-hander gave up seven hits, two walks and four runs, all earned in 5.0 IP in which he threw 87 pitches in a 12-6 loss to the Blue Jays. Tonight in Nationals Park, Gausman gave up eight hits, three home runs and seven runs total in 4.0 IP.
Adam LaRoche hit a 96 mph 2-0 fastball over the out-of-town scoreboard in right field in the first for a three-run home run. After the Orioles rallied to tie it at 3-3 in the top of the fourth, Tyler Moore hit an 0-2 slider that probably wasn't where Gausman wanted it out to left for a two-run home run in the bottom of the inning. Roger Bernadina turned a 97 mph 1-2 fastball around for a solo shot to right field. Denard got hold of a 1-1 fastball and doubled in a run before the O's starter got out of the fourth and it was 7-3 Nationals in a game that ended up 9-3.
Summing up Gausman's night at the park in the nation's capital, Baltimore Orioles' skipper Buck Showalter told MASN, the right-hander simply, "... elevated some fastballs. We all know that they can turn around a bullet at this level, but he's going to be a good pitcher."
"We saw two young pitchers going through the process of learning up here," Showalter continued, "and we had some opportunities to score, but we had a tough time keeping the ball in the ballpark."
Washington Nationals' manager Davey Johnson was pleased with what he saw from Nathan Karns in the right-hander's debut. "First start against a good-hitting ballclub," Johnson said, "I know he was nervous, but I like the way he went after the hitters." The Nats' skipper saw enough that he decided Karns would get another start with Ross Detwiler's oblique expected to keep him out of his next turn in the rotation.
"He's earned another start," Johnson explained. Karns had to wait until over an hour and twenty minutes after the scheduled start time for his first major league start until he threw his first pitch and Johnson said he saw signs the pitcher was nervous. "I thought it was fairly cool and he was sweating a whole lot," Johnson joked. The two walks Karns issued in his final inning of work showed the Nats' manager he was done.
Talking about the home runs Karns surrendered to Chris Davis and J.J. Hardy, Johnson said, "He left a pitch down in the zone to a pretty good low ball hitter and he crushed it and he left one up to a pretty good high ball hitter and he crushed it. But, I thought he handled himself well."
"I thought basically he went after the hitters," Johnson explained, "I was glad to see him going after them and he showed a good changeup and good little curve ball." Johnson said he thought Karns' stuff would play at the major league level. "It'll play up here. And he should be proud of what he did. That's a hot-hitting ballclub."
Karns will get another start Sunday afternoon in Atlanta. After that?