P-Nats' Karns unhittable through six

Allows lone baserunner; no-hit bid broken up in ninth inning

By Sam Dykstra / Special to MLB.com | July 21, 2012 6:53 PM ET

Nathan Karns has been downright unhittable this season. He held opponents to a .148 batting average in 11 games for Class A Hagerstown, a mark that's climbed to .163 in eight starts since he was promoted to the Carolina League.

On Saturday night, he knocked that statistic down a few notches.

The Nationals prospect hurled six almost-perfect innings as Class A Advanced Potomac took a no-hitter into the ninth before settling for a 9-0 romp over the Myrtle Beach Pelicans.

The P-Nats were two outs away from their first no-hitter since 1995 when Edwin Garcia singled up the middle off reliever Neil Holland.

Karns (6-2), who struck out two and threw only 61 pitches, wasn't perturbed after the near-miss. He was just happy to put another solid outing under his belt.

"It was all about throwing strikes tonight," he said. "The defense behind me played excellent, they just kept making play after play. They've been coming up big for me this year so far.

"For me, the fastball and changeup were working pretty well, but I thought the curveball wasn't there, really. As long as you can change speeds in this league and keep hitters off-balance, you'll do pretty well."

The Texas Tech product almost had the drama taken away much earlier. With two outs in the fourth, third baseman Stephen King made a sliding backhanded stab of a hot shot and threw Christian Villanueva out at first.

"It was a great play that stood out for me," Karns said. "I wish more people would have seen it."

With a groundout-to-flyout ratio of 10-to-3 on Saturday, the Texas native certainly gave his defense plenty of work. That can have its advantages and disadvantages -- shortstop Jason Martinson's error in the second kept Karns from six perfect innings -- but the right-hander gets just as pumped up about his defense's successes as his own.

"My confidence was full-throttle after [King's play]," Karns said. "When the defense is playing well behind me, it just makes everything that much easier. They want to make the plays behind me, and that's a great feeling."

As well as Karns was working in tandem with his defenders, there always begs the question of why he couldn't go an extra inning or two. However, with the 24-year-old pitching his first full season after undergoing shoulder surgery in 2010, he knows there's a plan to limit his innings, no matter the result.

"There's definitely an itch to get back out there," Karns said. "But they've got limits on all of us here and my only real goal for the year is to finish it off healthy. So that made the decision easy today."

Along with those pitching boundaries, the 2009 12th-round pick has plans to continue to produce more outings like Saturday's.

"I'm not trying to do anything too fancy," he said. "I just throw the pitches I want and the ones I think the hitters don't want -- it's as simple as that. Get the fastball working in and out, use the curveball and changeup a little. All I want to do is pitch strike one, pitch to contact and go from there."

Nationals' No. 3 prospect Michael Taylor went 5-for-5, missed the cycle by a triple, drove in three runs and scored three times out of the leadoff spot.

"He has speed, power, a glove, an arm -- he's the whole package," Karns said. "We came in with the same Draft class, so it's been great to see him grow from an 18-year-old until now."

Taylor is 10-for-14 over the last three games to raise his average 22 points to .245.

Sam Dykstra is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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