Right-hander Nathan Karns gets his second major league start for the Nationals today in Atlanta. After yesterday's excruciating 2-1, 10-inning setback against the Braves, a solid outing and a win are huge to the psyche of a banged-up team.
His opening start was solid, as he went 4 1/3 innings, allowing three runs. He kept his team in the game and the Nats eventually won. Really, that is all he needs to do today. But, of course, he would like more than that.
Nationals pitching coach Steve McCatty said Karns should be commended for his first start in the big leagues.
"What is there to second-guess himself about?", McCatty said. "He really didn't know the hitters. He went out there and got us to the fifth inning when we needed him. He did a real nice job."
McCatty has familiarity with Karns, and knows he has the stuff to carry him through to his next chance today.
"I saw him pitch in Potomac last year," McCatty said. "He has a power arm, real good curveball and he has been working on his changeup. He threw some good ones the other day. Hard to tell on the curveball because he was excited and overthrowing it a bit. I am sure he doesn't take much from the first start to next one. Your first start you don't remember. It is kind of a blur. He has got great stuff."
One thing Karns did remember was how his teammates in the infield - shortstop Ian Desmond, first baseman Adam LaRoche, catcher Kurt Suzuki and others - went up to him in the game and offered encouragement. They also showed they backed him up with some aggressive play on defense.
"That is what veteran guys do," McCatty said. "I don't have to run out there every trip or yell. I watch and see how the position guys talk to him and settle him down. Instead of me trying to go out there, they picked the right spots to do it. I am sure that it really helped him.
"Guys that are your peers can calm you down more than some old guy coming out there and saying, All right, just relax here.' Guys out in the field did a great job."
Karns has also had two games to see what Atlanta's offense has been trying to do. Certainly his throws to first base will be crucial when facing a quick team.
"You can watch tendencies," McCatty said. "He can look at some video. We may talk what a guy might try to do instead of what you should be throwing. He will get a comfort level of being around (the Braves hitters) a little bit."
McCatty also got to know a little bit of Karns' personality and makeup over the last week.
"He is a big dude," McCatty said. "He is from Texas so I thought there would be more of a Southern drawl. But his dad was in the military so he has moved around quite a bit."
And he learned about how Karns stays cool and calm when given big news after his first start with the Nationals.
"I told him to go back to the hotel and have all your stuff packed because you are getting on the bus with us and you are going to be pitching against Atlanta. And he goes, 'I'm down with that.' I exploded on him, 'I'm down with that?? I am not one of your punk buddies!' " McCatty laughed.
The Nationals are definitely "down with" Karns as he gets going in his second start.