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Lopez feels right at home, helps lead Royals to 7-3 win over Tigers

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Nicky gets his first career homer

Detroit Tigers v Kansas City Royals Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

The last time the Royals had won a series, we still had over a week of waiting before Avengers: Endgame. School was still in session. The St. Louis Blues were tied with the Winnipeg Jets at 2-2 in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The first four games of the NBA playoffs had just taken place.

In other words, it has been a minute since the Royals took down the Indians on April 13 to give them their last series win. In a cruel bit of irony that fans of the 2000’s Royals waited over a decade for, the entire team was actually sent to Omaha in search of their first series win in exactly two months and they came through.

Carried by Homer Bailey and a jumpstart offense, Kansas City defeated Detroit in the first MLB game in Nebraska history, winning 7-2 Thursday night.

The Royals struck first and never looked back, thanks to a special moment for Nicky Lopez.

Just over a month ago, Lopez went 2-4 with two doubles in a loss to the Round Rock Express at Werner Park in Omaha. The next day, he was called up to Kansas City after playing 88 games for Omaha. Before that, from 2014-2016, Lopez played 146 more games in Omaha as a member of the Creighton Blue Jays, eventually being drafted by the Royals in 5th round of the 2016 MLB Draft.

Naturally, Lopez lined Matthew Boyd’s 1-0 pitch over the fence in right field for his first career home run in his first at-bat at TD Ameritrade since he was a Creighton Blue Jay. The homer was also the first Major League home run in Nebraska history.

And the Royals weren’t done in the second, as Martin Maldonado followed Lopez with his 6th double of the season, moving to third on a bunt single from Terrance Gore and scoring on a Boyd balk.

It was around this time that the ESPN feed of the game cut out, staying down for several minutes with the Cardinals-Mets game replacing it. In fact, most of us didn’t see Lopez’s homer as a result. The feed was eventually restored but not to what you would expect from an ESPN broadcast, looking more like a minor league feed with a lower-quality picture.

Nevertheless, play continued on and Homer Bailey continued giving the Tigers problems. Through three innings, Bailey had struck out six batters, punching out two of three Tigers hitters in each of the first three frames. Through four innings, he had given up just one hit.

The Royals were back on Boyd in the 4th, starting with Lopez’s second hit of the day. Gore then walked before Whit Merrifield laced a two-out RBI double to left to put the Royals up 4-0. It looked like Boyd was going to get out of the inning when Adalberto Mondesi grounded to Niko Goodrum, but a throwing error allowed Merrifield to score, giving the Royals a 5-0 lead. They would add another run in the 5th on an RBI single from Maldonado, putting them ahead by a touchdown.

Bailey got himself into a jam in the 6th, giving up a single and a walk with two outs. Harold Castro put a charge into a ball, sending it into the gap in right center, but Billy Hamilton covered a ton of ground to make the play and keep the Tigers scoreless.

Bailey finished the night without giving up a run in six innings of work, his best start since the last time he faced the Tigers on May 4. That night, he gave up just two runs across six innings of work. Since the beginning of May, Bailey has managed to go at least six innings and give up two runs or fewer twice, both times against the Tigers.

Merrifield’s second double of the evening set the table for a bloop RBI single from Cheslor Cuthbert in the 6th, converting the extra point and putting the Royals up 7-0.

The Tigers broke the shutout in the 7th with a run, but really threatened in the 8th, loading the bases with nobody out. Kevin McCarthy worked around the jam well, thanks in part to a nice play by Cuthbert to record the first out, allowing just one run on a sac fly to Castro. The sac fly cut the Tigers deficit to 7-2.

They added another run in the 9th against Wily Peralta and moved the tying run into the on-deck circle, forcing Ned Yost to bring in Ian Kennedy. He would need just one pitch to end the game, getting Brandon Dixon to fly out, giving the Royals their first series win in two months. It was Kennedy’s 6th save on the season.

Up Next: Kansas City Royals at Minnesota Twins; Friday, June 14, 7:10 PM CDT, Target Field. RHP Brad Keller (3-8, 4.29 ERA) v. RHP Kyle Gibson (6-3, 4.14 ERA)