O’s game blog: For openers, Nate Karns gets the call

The Orioles will use an opener in right-hander Nate Karns when they face the New York Yankees today in the second game of the 2019 season. On opening day on Thursday, Luke Voit hit a three-run homer in the first inning and the Yankees went on to win, 7-2.

The Orioles signed the 31-year-old Karns to a major league contract on Feb. 7. Karns missed all last season and has not pitched in a major league game since May 19, 2017, for Kansas City. Later that season he had thoracic outlet surgery. Last season Karns was out with a right elbow injury.

Karns-Winds-Orange-Spring-sidebar.jpgBut he pitched well in spring training. Over his last six games and 7 1/3 innings, he gave up just four hits and one run with one walk and seven strikeouts. His last outing he pitched two scoreless innings at Ed Smith Stadium versus Pittsburgh.

Drafted in round 12 by Washington in 2009, Karns was the Nats’ minor league Pitcher of the Year in 2012, and was the Tampa Bay Rays’ outstanding rookie in 2015 when he went 7-5 with a 3.67 ERA.

Karns has made five career starts against the Yankees, going 2-0 with a 2.70 ERA. Over 26 2/3 innings he has given up 22 hits with 14 walks and 35 strikeouts, averaging 11.8 per nine innings. The Yankees have hit .222 against him with an OPS of .639.

Orioles pitchers allowed eight walks and hit one batter in the season-opening loss, while New York’s four pitchers combined to issue just one walk.

Left-hander James Paxton (11-6, 3.76 ERA in 2018) will make his Yankees debut. On Nov. 19 Seattle traded him to the Yankees for three players including pitching prospect Justus Sheffield.

The last two years for the Mariners, Paxton has gone 23-11 with a 3.40 ERA. In 296 1/3 innings he allowed 274 hits and struck out 30.4 percent of his batters faced. That is the fourth-highest percentage for those two years in the American League, and his ERA ranks 17th.

Paxton has reverse splits, as he struggles much more against left-handed batters. Last year he allowed an average of .330 facing lefty hitters but just .202 against right-handers. For his career he yields an average of .290 against lefty hitters and .226 versus right-handers.

In one start last season against the Orioles, he went 1-0 with a 2.57 ERA. In three career starts versus Baltimore, he is 2-0 with a 3.71 ERA. In 17 innings he has allowed six walks and recorded 17 strikeouts and a WHIP of 1.471.

The Orioles’ Trey Mancini went 3-for-4 with a double and an RBI Thursday. Mancini notched the O’s only extra-base hit and has now hit safely in each of his three career opening day games, batting .556 (5-for-9). He’s hit safely in 14 of his last 16 games at Yankee Stadium, batting .362/.413/.522 (25-for-69) with five doubles, two home runs and seven RBIs over that span.

New York’s Luke Voit has homered in a career-high four straight games, dating back to Sept. 27 at Tampa Bay. And he has homered in seven of his last 12 games since Sept. 19, batting .432/.510/1.045 (19-for-44) with three doubles, eight homers and 20 RBIs. Voit has hit five home runs in seven career games versus Baltimore and is hitting .435/.552/1.087 (10-for-23) with seven runs, 14 RBIs and five walks. He has multiple RBIs in four of seven games against the O’s.

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