A leadoff walk, a stolen base, and three singles and things were looking bleak for the pitcher in the first. Then, a grand slam. In the space of just a few minutes, it’s a 5-0 deficit.
Rolling your eyes, are you? This happened in the bottom of the first.
Highlighted by Michael Taylor’s first home run of the season (the grand slam), the Potomac Nationals started strong with a five-run first and cruised to a 14-0 pummeling of the Lynchburg Hillcats.
Of course, it was a baker’s dozen more runs that Nathan Karns needed as the 24-year-old continues to roll through the Carolina League, lowering his ERA to 2.12 with six shutout innings, one hit and two walks allowed, and six strikeouts.
Karns has yet to be tested against the class of the Carolina League (Winston-Salem), but as P-Nats play-by-play man Tim Swartz tweeted last night, Karns is making the case to be the best prospect in the system at this moment. His last six starts: 40IP, 19H, 10BB, 50K, and a 0.75ERA. As written previously, the twin trends of reduced walks and increased (and improved) use of his breaking pitches have been the keys to this string of success.
Potomac did lose steam after the grand slam, but credit should go to Lynchburg’s pitcher Aaron Northcraft for bearing down. The Hillcat righty retired 15 of 16 batters before Jason Martinson’s single to right opened up a three-run rally in the 6th, as Taylor ripped a double down the left field line to send the shortstop to third and Stephen King plated the two with a single up the middle against the drawn-in infield.
The 7th inning also started slowly, with the Lynchburg left fielder muffing a Ricky Hague flyball. After Xavier Nady grounded to short to complete his 0-for-4 night, David Freitas drew a walk, Martinson sliced a liner to right for a triple to drive in Hague and Freitas. Following a walk to Taylor, a King RBI single, Kevin Keyes completing the scoring binge by putting a coat on hanger by Hillcat reliever Caleb Brewer for his team-leading 13th homer and RBI nos. 48, 49, and 50.
With the outcome of the game certain, Karns was lifted and the Potomac ‘pen given a chance to get some work done. Joe Testa delivered a 1-2-3 frame in the 7th while Adam Carr finished the game with just a walk allowed over the final two innings to complete the shutout, the fourth of the season for Potomac.
The win pulls the P-Nats to within two games of the ‘Cats for first place in the Carolina League Nothh, though they still inhabit the cellar of the four-team division. Veteran Adam Olbrychowski (4-7, 5.54) gets the start tonight, opposed by Lynchburg southpaw Dimasther Delgado (5-4, 3.62).