In the game preview, I suggested that Royals fans might look for some hope for next year’s team in whether Jorge Lopez could duplicate his previous outing against the Orioles but against a better team. He couldn’t do that. But we’ll get to that in a minute.
The offense showed up, again, tonight. Even without Salvy driving the bus. Whit Merrifield and Adalberto Mondesi both had multi-hit games. They plus Alex Gordon and Hunter Dozier managed RBIs. Ryan O’Hearn had a single. Jorge Bonifacio had a double and scored a run. Mondesi showed off his wheels, too. He hit a bunt single in the sixth inning and then stole second and third. Whit also stole a base in the ninth inning.
Jose Berrios didn’t pitch terribly today. He went six innings striking out five and only allowing a single run on three hits. The problem the Twins had was Tyler Duffey who came on in relief in the seventh inning. He allowed three hits and three runs in only two-thirds of an inning.
OK, now to the moment you’re curious about. Jorge Lopez did not pitch a perfect game. He did not pitch a no-hitter. He did come closer to that magical perfect game than any Royals pitcher had ever come before. When he took the mound in the ninth he had retired 24 straight batters to start the game. He needed three outs to complete the performance but he couldn’t manage it. Throughout the game, he had been nailing corners with his fastball/sinker and mystifying Twins batters with his off-speed stuff. Nerves seemed to get to him in the ninth, though, and the fastballs couldn’t quite find the corners.
In the end, he completed only eight-plus innings. He struck out four, walked one, allowed a single, and a run. As you can tell from the strikeout numbers, Lopez did get a lot of help from his defense. Alex Gordon, in particular, made several impressive catches in left to support the efforts of his pitcher. This was Jorge Lopez’s seventh career major league start and only his seventeenth major league appearance. If you thought people had high hopes for his future after the Baltimore game you’d better look out, now. Brett Phillips was the highlight of the Mike Moustakas trade when it was made but as our own Patrick Brennan pointed out earlier this week, Jorge Lopez might end up being significantly better than anyone gave him credit for initially.
Wily Peralta came on in relief and got outs in the air to each of his outfielders to earn his ninth save. The Royals won again, but the real story is the young starter who completely baffled a major league lineup for eight entire innings. The Royals will play the rubber match, tomorrow. Ian Kennedy will make his “triumphant” return and face off against rookie Chase De Jong.