Tampa Bay Rays at Texas Rangers game preview
As a high schooler in Arlington, Texas, Nathan Karns would often attend Rangers games and think about what it would be like to pitch in the big leagues.
Now the right-hander will be the one standing on the Globe Life Park mound as he makes his first start back home.
In a matchup with wild-card implications, Karns will try to lead the Tampa Bay Rays to their fifth consecutive victory Friday night in the opener of a three-game series.
A pitching career that began at Arlington’s Martin High School and continued at Texas Tech University will come full circle with Karns’ first full season as a starter with Tampa Bay.
The 27-year-old is getting the chance to pitch at Globe Life in front of friends and family.
"The opportunity is definitely something I’ve dreamt about for a long time," he told MLB’s official website. "… There’s a lot of history of me going there for games, but it’ll be awesome to give something back to my parents and everyone else involved who got me to this point."
Karns (7-5, 3.52 ERA) has limited opponents to two or fewer runs in 14 of his last 18 starts, though he allowed four runs over five innings of Saturday’s 5-4 home win over the New York Mets.
In his only other meeting with Texas on May 8, Karns gave up two runs and four hits while striking out nine over seven innings of an 8-2 win at Tropicana Field.
The Rays (58-56) will try to continue their climb in the wild-card race with their eighth win in nine games, while the Rangers (56-57) seek a season-high fifth consecutive home victory.
Texas had totaled five runs during a three-game losing streak before wrapping up a 2-4 trip with Thursday’s 6-5 win over Minnesota. Mitch Moreland had a career-high four hits – including his 17th home run – and Adrian Beltre added three hits after going 3 for 27 over his previous seven.
"We needed that one," Moreland said. "Good to carry a little bit of momentum back home."
Former Tampa Bay draft pick Josh Hamilton isn’t expected to be available for a third straight game due to soreness in his left knee. The club has ordered an MRI on the 34-year-old slugger.
Martin Perez will make his sixth start since returning from Tommy John surgery. After going 0-2 with a 10.50 ERA in his first three outings, the left-hander has gone 1-0 with a 1.88 mark in his past two.
Perez (1-2, 5.81) is 0-1 with a 4.35 ERA in two games – one start – against the Rays. Evan Longoria is 3 for 4 with a home run off him and he’s batting .356 with three homers over his last 11 against Texas.
While it ranks near the bottom of the majors in most offensive categories, Tampa Bay has hit .296 with 13 home runs while scoring 5.6 per game over its last seven.
Asdrubal Cabrera has led the surge, batting .490 while recording at least one hit in 13 of his last 14 games. The shortstop has also gone 7 for 17 in his last four against the Rangers.
Outfielder Desmond Jennings is expected back after missing 3 1/2 months due to left knee surgery.
The teams split a four-game series at Tropicana in May but the Rays have won five of six in Arlington.