Ok, fine. You saw the title. You know that the Kansas City Royals defeated the Texas Rangers 11-5. But some of you are primarily reading this in order to discover how Nicky Lopez’s debut went. I get it.
The short answer: pretty good! The longer answer: Lopez played in the bigs pretty much exactly how he played in the minors. In his first plate appearance in the first inning, Lopez got behind on an 0-2 count but—shocker—did not strike out. Instead, he hit a fly ball that moved Whit Merrifield from second base to third base. Lopez would make a couple outs before he got on base in his fourth plate appearance via a walk. And in his fifth plate appearance, Lopez accrued his first big league hit and RBI with this nice opposite-field knock:
But this game was far more than Nicky Lopez, because an 11-5 game naturally involves a bunch of people. Indeed, the Royals (and Rangers) accomplished quite a lot.
Most of the action occurred within the first three innings. Kansas City got on the board first via doubles by Merrifield, Alex Gordon, and Hunter Dozier and a single by Jorge Soler. 3-0, Kansas City.
Then, in the second inning, the Royals really turned it on. By both definitions, the Royals batted around. Martin Maldonado walked, and Billy Hamilton literally and metaphorically followed in his footsteps with a walk of his own. At this point, it was crystal clear that Rangers starter Shelby Miller, who entered the game with an ERA north of 7, was struggling. A mound visit reinforced that notion but did absolutely nothing to correct his performance.
It’s probably easier to mention the players that made an out. Lopez hit into a fielder’s choice for the first out. Gordon also hit into a fielder’s choice for a second out. Billy Hamilton made the third out with—you guessed it—another fielder’s choice. Everyone around them, though? Hits. Hits everywhere. By the end of the third, the Royals led 9-0, a commanding and insurmountable lead for the woeful Rangers to overcome.
Unfortunately, Danny Duffy’s tepid third inning and a rare, I-lost-the-ball-in-the-clouds misplay by Gordon gifted the Rangers two runs on top of the two they scored legitimately. All told, though, Duffy was effective if not efficient, gutting through five innings and striking out six against one walk.
Perhaps if this game was played in the first few weeks of the season the Royals might have lost. Richard Lovelady gave up two quick hits in the top of the sixth inning in relief of Duffy, placing runners on second and third with none out. But the early Royals didn’t have Scott Barlow, who Ned Yost is using like an all-powerful fireman. Indeed, Barlow coaxed two popouts and then won a long battle against Shin-Soo Choo, striking him out and stranding Roughned Odor and Isiah Kiner-Falefa. Barlow then tossed another scoreless inning because, well, why not?
In the eighth inning, Merrifield notched his 500th career hit, a fantastic achievement for the fan favorite. Merrifield isn’t quite as good as peak Ben Zobrist, but the parallels between the two are uncanny, and that means nothing but good things for Royals fans.
Enjoy this one. It was a blast. The Royals begin the Lopez Era 1-0.