Karns took a one-hitter into the seventh inning and left with his 15th start allowing two runs or less, tied for the major-league lead. Add in two home runs from catcher Curt Casali and Tampa Bay got a 5-2 win over the Detroit Tigers to open a three-game series at Tropicana Field.
"Nate Karns really set the tone," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "I thought he looked really crisp, efficient early on. ... He came out attacking the strike zone. It really showed and paid off for him."
Karns (6-5) was efficient in his domination, throwing just 71 pitches before leaving after allowing two hits, including a solo home run by Tigers left fielder Yoenis Cespedes, to lead off the seventh. Tampa Bay's bullpen held Detroit to two hits in three innings to lock down the win.
"We didn't do a whole lot offensively, but we came within one late there in the eighth," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said. "Unfortunately the two-run homer (from Casali) in the bottom of the eighth kind of put the nail in the coffin."
The Rays (50-51) went 13 consecutive games (and also 15 straight home games) without scoring more than four runs, but they ended those streaks when Casali hit a two-run home run in the eighth, his fourth in his past six games.
Detroit (48-51) was held to two runs or fewer for the fourth time in five games, and it lost all four of those contests. Tigers starter Anibel Sanchez, who was 7-0 in his last eight starts coming in, gave up eight hits in 5 1/3 innings to drop to 10-8.
"Sanchy didn't have his best stuff, but he battled through, still kept us in the ballgame, gave us a chance to win," Ausmus said.
The Tigers pulled within a run in the eighth, ending a streak of 21 straight scoreless appearances for Rays reliever Jake McGee. The left-hander gave up a two-out single to second baseman Ian Kinsler, who advanced on a wild pitch and scored on a bloop single to left by Cespedes. McGee struck out designated hitter Victor Martinez to get out of the inning with a 3-2 lead.
Rays reliever Brad Boxberger closed out the win with a scoreless ninth, striking out two for his 25th save of the season.
The Rays got a boost after the game with news that shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera (groin) would be activated from the disabled list, with rookie utilityman Jake Elmore optioned to Triple-A Durham to make room.
However, center fielder Kevin Kiermaier had to leave the game with an abrasion to his left eye, an injury suffered in pregame workouts that got worse during the game. He's officially listed as day-to-day.
Cespedes put the Tigers on the scoreboard with a solo home run to lead off the seventh inning, just the second hit for Detroit against Karns. Martinez followed with a single, and Karns was done after 71 pitches, having allowed three hits in six-plus innings. He struck out three without issuing a walk.
Karns benefited from strong defense around him, with third baseman Evan Longoria knocking down a well-hit ball and throwing from his knee in foul territory to record a highlight-reel out.
"Defense played really well behind me," Karns said. "Longoria made a great play at third. Plays like that just kind of reinforce you as a pitcher when you're out there to just keep doing what you've been doing and the defense has your back."
Tampa Bay's offense stepped up for a rare cushion, starting with Casali, who hit a solo home run in the third inning off Anibal Sanchez (10-8).
The Rays got back-to-back doubles in the fourth from outfielders Steven Souza and Kevin Kiermaier for a 2-0 lead
In the fifth, a two-out single by second baseman Logan Forsythe scored left fielder David DeJesus, who legged out an infield single then came home from second with a slide to beat the throw from left field.
Sanchez gave up three runs on eight hits in 5 1/3 innings.
NOTES: Former Rays LHP David Price will pitch against his former team Tuesday night for Detroit, just his second time facing Tampa Bay since being traded at last year's deadline. He took a 1-0 loss at Tropicana Field on Aug. 21, giving up one hit in eight innings. The Rays also oppose Tigers RHP Justin Verlander on Wednesday, just the second time the team has faced Cy Young Award winners in back-to-back games. Tampa Bay lost to RHP Zack Greinke and LHP Clayton Kershaw in a road series against the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2013. ... Detroit recalled RHP Buck Farmer from Toledo and optioned LHP Kyle Ryan to the Triple-A club. Farmer was 7-3 with a 4.15 ERA in 16 starts for Toledo. He was 0-2 with a 9.22 ERA in three games (two starts) for Detroit earlier this season. Ryan was 1-2 with a 6.19 ERA in nine games (five starts) for the Tigers.