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Tampa Bay Rays Game 2: Major Turnaround Falls Just Short

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It is too early in the season for the Tampa Bay Rays to have a turning point? Maybe it is, but they looked like an entirely different team from the third inning of their second game onwards. Nate Karns suddenly found his command, the bats figured out Wei-Yin Chen and Kevin Gausman, and the relievers battled their way out of trouble. If the Rays keep looking like that, good things will be in store.

Last season at Triple-A, Karns had four outings where he lasted 3 innings or less and allowed 5 or more runs. That statistic is emblematic of his inconsistent command and the horrific results that accompany it too often. In this game, though, even after Karns allowed 6 runs in the first two innings, he did something that wasn’t in the scouting report: he adjusted.

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Karns finished with 5.2 innings allowing 6 runs on 5 hits, striking out 4 and walking 4 as well. He didn’t allow a hit after the second inning, and while he was never sharp, he did just enough to keep the Baltimore Orioles off-balance. Major league pitchers find ways to compete without their best stuff, and Karns certainly did that in this game. The Rays are looking forward to his occasional dominant outing, but given that he won’t be able to manage that every time, he needs to find ways to pitch like he did at the end of this game.

The Rays got on the board on an RBI groundout from Steven Souza, and they later received two-run home runs from Logan Forsythe and Kevin Kiermaier. Kiermaier was also the one that scored the first run after he hit a left-on-left triple. It was great to see Forsythe doing what he is being to do–hit lefties–and Kiermaier’s triple reminds us that he deserves a chance against left-handers as well. He hit them well in the minor leagues, and the bar for his offense is quite low given his defense.

Evan Longoria also had a nice game, going 1 for 2 with a pair of walks and a run scored. The Rays would have loved if he had managed a run-scoring hit somewhere in there, but we can’t complain about him getting on base three times in four trips to the plate. The Rays also pulled off a double-steal with Brandon Guyer and Souza. Guyer can really run, and the Rays will hope to find more spots to utilize his speed.

In terms of the relief pitchers, meanwhile, Grant Balfour had an iffy outing but was bailed out by Steve Geltz. Geltz, one day removed from his dominant four-strikeout outing on Monday, did allow a walk but escaped a bases-loaded jam with a double play groundball. Geltz is known for the strikeout, but it was great to see him find a way to get the only result that would have helped him more in that situation. Kevin Jepsen and Brad Boxberger also looked sharp in their perfect frames.

The Tampa Bay Rays drop to 0-2 with the loss, but a weight has been lifted off their shoulders and they are feeling a lot better about their chances. One game means nothing by itself, but it was just a slight support the Rays’ belief that their fill-in starters can be serviceable and that their bats can score enough runs. They will home to grow their confidence even more with a win tomorrow as Jake Odorizzi takes on Miguel Gonzalez at 7:05 PM at the Trop.

Next: Tampa Bay Rays' Chris Archer Overly Amped Up on Opening Day

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