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Karns bounces back in duel with Sale

ST. PETERSBURG -- Nate Karns rebounded well to give the Rays a solid performance in their 2-1 win over the White Sox on Sunday afternoon at Tropicana Field.

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Karns got roughed up by the Angels on Tuesday when he allowed five runs on nine hits in 5 2/3 innings. Sunday, the right-hander gave up one run on seven hits in six innings en route to a no-decision and his fourth quality start of the season.

He dodged land mines throughout his outing on Sunday, escaping plenty of potential troublesome situation. The White Sox had a runner in scoring position in every inning against him, but managed to go just 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position.

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"It's definitely not the most ideal, not how you draw it up, where you have runners in scoring position all the time, but he did, and sometimes I think you just have to adjust," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "There isn't a lot of panic out there, I think that with the amount of innings he's pitched, the amount of starts he's gotten, that he's built more confidence. He can slow the game down and get through it. That's what he did."

Karns has allowed two runs or fewer in nine of his 13 starts this season and has a 2.88 ERA over his last nine starts since April 27.

Cash allowed that facing White Sox ace Chris Sale might have elevated Karns' performance.

"Maybe a little bit," Cash said. "We try not to get too involved. But if you're a starting pitcher -- I never pitched -- that adds to it a little bit. If anything you know you have to be that much better. A little more fine, because of the margin of error.

"Generally, when Sale gets a couple of runs, you can look at the numbers, he has a lot of success when he has that support. Again, that goes back to what Karns did. He gives up one and just shuts them down."

Karns didn't think that facing Sale affected his performance.

"I try to stay out of what the other pitcher is doing and the type of success he's having," Karns said. "I pretty much just face the hitters, so I focused on those guys. I had a great [opportunity] two games prior to really see what they're capable of. Just kind of go at what their weakness was and pitch to my strengths."

Karns relied heavily on his changeup, noting that he had a good feel for the pitch on Sunday. He had eight strikeouts, which was his second-highest total of the season (he struck out nine against the Rangers on May 8).

While the Rays' offense hasn't given Karns any run support in his last two outings, the right-hander complimented his teammates.

"I've got to give it to my defense who played really well behind me," Karns said. "We had a tough opponent -- Sale is one of the best. We knew we had our work cut out for us.

"We just tried to keep it close and eventually we were able to get the big knock from [Asdrubal Cabrera] to put us in front. Then C.J. [Riefenhauser], [Steve] Geltz and [Kevin Jepsen] shut it down for us. It was a great team win and a great way to close out the series."

Bill Chastain is a reporter for Listen to his podcast.
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