PHILADELPHIA — Aaron Nola did almost everything right in his major league debut. Surprisingly, the opposing pitcher gave him trouble.
Nola, a former LSU and Catholic High star, gave up a home run to Rays starter Nathan Karns for what turned out to be the lone run in Tampa Bay’s 1-0 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies on Tuesday night.
Nola (0-1) was impressive, surrendering one run and five hits with six strikeouts and one walk in six innings, but the Phillies managed just four hits while ending their four-game winning streak.
“He was poised, had good mound presence and didn’t look scared,” Phillies interim manager Pete Mackanin said. “Just couldn’t muster any offense for him. He did everything right.”
The 22-year-old right-hander was the seventh overall selection by the Phillies in the 2014 draft, making him the first Philadelphia player since Pat Combs in 1989 to appear in the big leagues a year after being drafted.
There was a rare buzz among the 28,703 fans at Citizens Bank Park that has been absent for most of this rebuilding season. Since announcing on Friday that Nola was being called up, the Phillies sold 8,500 tickets — including 4,000 on Tuesday alone.
Fans cheered as soon as Nola emerged from the dugout during warmups, gave him a standing ovation when his name was announced and unleashed some chants of “AA-RON! NO-LA!” during the contest.
“It was pretty awesome to be out there, feel the energy of the fans and pitch at this level,” Nola said. “It was amazing.”
And he didn’t disappoint those in attendance.
Featuring a fastball that reached as high as 94 mph, along with an 84-mph changeup and curveball, Nola breezed through the first two innings looking like a poised veteran.
Then, he grooved a fastball to Karns leading off the third, and the Rays pitcher drove it into the seats in left field for an unlikely homer.
It was just the sixth time in baseball history that an American League pitcher homered in a 1-0 game, the last coming on April 18, 1962, when Milt Pappas did it for Baltimore in a win over the Yankees.
“It was definitely a memory I won’t ever forget,” said Karns, who said his last homer came in 2006 while in high school. “I just swung away.”
The homer was the first hit by a Rays pitcher this season, snapping an 0-for-14 skid, and their first in the last 23 at-bats dating to last July 23 when Alex Cobb doubled.
It also was the first homer for Karns, who had been 0-for-5 in his career at the plate, and just the second by a Tampa Bay pitcher in club history.
“He put a great swing on it,” Nola said. “I was hoping it didn’t go out. Unfortunately, it did. I focused on the next hitter and tried to bounce back.”
Only two batters besides Karns reached second base.
“He knows how to pitch,” Mackanin said.
The Phillies had their own trouble with Karns and five relievers.
The quintet allowed one hit in four scoreless innings, capped by Brad Boxberger’s 1-2-3 ninth that gave him 24 saves.
Karns (5-5) allowed three hits, struck out four and walked two, marking the 14th game where the right-hander has allowed two earned runs or less.
Philadelphia had runners on first and second with two outs in the seventh, but Jake McGee struck out pinch-hitter Jeff Francoeur with a 99 mph fastball for the final out.