KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Nate Karns’ season did not begin particularly well, but the Kansas City Royals’ right-hander has been impressive in his past two starts.
Karns and Baltimore Orioles right-hander Chris Tillman are scheduled to start the middle game of a three-game weekend series at Kauffman Stadium.
Karns struck out 10 Tampa Bay Rays, matching his career best, on Monday in a 7-3 victory. In his previous start on May 3, he limited the Chicago White Sox to one hit over six innings.
“What’s changed? I don’t know,” Karns said of his past two starts. “Maybe it’s just being more effective at the beginning of each at-bat, working ahead. I would definitely say when I can work ahead and keep the count in my favor, you can kind of force them to swing at not the best pitches or locations. Just working ahead.”
Karns knows the key to success for him Saturday.
“If I can be effective with my heater and locate that, when I get ahead I have some success spinning with the curveball,” he said. “I’m just going to take that in stride and try to mix my changeup a little more. They are a pretty powerful offense. I know they like to hunt the heater. So anything I can do to kind of mess up their timing is going to be beneficial for the team.”
The Orioles’ lineup is laden with power hitters like Chris Davis, Adam Jones, Mark Trumbo and Manny Machado.
“I like facing any lineup, really,” Karns said. “The more power the greater challenge. I like to think of the positives that would come out of that if doing well against them. I don’t really fear them. I look at it more the opportunity to do well against them.”
Karns is 7-1 with a 2.68 ERA in 14 career May starts. He has won his past five May starts, dating to 2016 while with Seattle.
The 29-year-old Tillman is making just his second start of the season after being placed on the disabled list in spring training with a shoulder issue. He threw five scoreless innings Sunday to beat the Chicago White Sox.
Royals center fielder Lorenzo Cain and designated hitter Brandon Moss have had little success against Tillman. Cain is 1 for 11 off him, while Moss is 1 for 15.
Mike Moustakas, however, is 5 for 13 with a home run off Tillman, while Salvador Perez is 5 for 14 (.357) with a homer.
The Orioles are carrying only a six-man bullpen.
“I’d like to continue to keep our guys in good shape physically, so we’re on top of that, as always,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said of his bullpen. “That’s the only good thing about the rainout (Thursday at Washington). Even though we’re not having to double up down the road, but those off-days are precious to a major league club, so unfortunately we didn’t get to play (Thursday).”
Showalter acknowledges he might have to add an arm to the bullpen.
“It’s going to be hard not to do that eventually,” he said. “It’s going to be a challenge to stay at six.”