In the bottom of the 5th, MJ Melendez stayed in the batter’s box after the count went to 3-0. The score was 0-0, Zack Greinke was cruising on the other side, and Twins starter Pablo Lopez was on the ropes with bases loaded and just one out. With the new pitch clock, he had no time to take a breath.
Three pitches later, the inning was over. A few moments later, Byron Buxton tripled, the Twins scored the first two runs of the game, and that was seemingly all she wrote, as the Royals fell to Minnesota 2-0 on Opening Day.
It was just the third shutout in franchise history on Opening Day. The last happening in 2017 against the A’s and the other in 1971 against these same Twins. Kansas City falls to 0-1 while the Twins improve to 1-0. The Royals managed just two hits.
Both teams started slow offensively, but the pitch clock kept things moving, with the first three innings taking just over 45 minutes, a brisk 2:15 pace. First-time Opening Day starter Lopez mowed through the first seven Royals before a one-out walk from Kyle Isbel gave Kansas City its first base runner in the 3rd.
He found himself in scoring position for Bobby Witt Jr. with two outs in the inning, the first offensive action of the season. It was short lived with Witt stranding him on an ugly strikeout to keep the game scoreless.
Minnesota didn’t have much run-scoring luck across the first several innings, with Royals starter Zack Greinke getting seven swings and misses from the Twins’ first 12 batters. That’s a pretty good number compared to last season.
Greinke has seven whiffs through three. He only had more than that in 11 of 26 entire starts last year. #Royals— David Lesky (@DBLesky) March 30, 2023
They put Zack in some precarious situations, including a bases-loaded jam in the 1st inning, but he kept his pitch count under control and managed to keep Minnesota off the board early as Kansas City’s offense struggled to get going. One of those baserunners came via this interesting error from MJ Melendez in the 2nd.
The Royals used what might soon be called "The Joey Gallo Shift" today.— SIS_Baseball (@sis_baseball) March 30, 2023
Good intention, bad result@domricotta15 went in-depth and looked at several other hitters who might get defensed this wayhttps://t.co/4srArAAo1i pic.twitter.com/UFkqTowf5K
The Royals put together the first true threat of the season in the bottom half of the 4th with a leadoff walk from Melendez and a broken-bat single from Salvador Perez, the first hit of the season.
Lopez stranded them both with consecutive strikeouts and a flyout from Michael Massey to keep the game tied at 0-0.
Kansas City threatened again with a one-out double from Kyle Isbel, who also walked in his first plate appearance. A painful HBP for Edward Olivares and a walk loaded the bases for Melendez. He worked the count to 3-0 before swinging at ball four on the 3-1 pitch and then the 3-2 pitch, grounding into a 3-2-4 double play to end the inning. It was not a great at-bat, given the circumstances.
While baseball games are not often carried by momentum, this felt like they play that turned the game towards the Twins.
Byron Buxton responded immediately with a leadoff triple that just made it past the outstretched glove of Isbel and scored on a Trevor Larnach single to go up 1-0. After retiring one more batter, new Royals manager Matt Quatraro had seen enough from Zack, opting for Amir Garrett to face back-to-back lefties.
Greinke left after 5.1 innings, surrendering just two earned run on six hits. He struck out four and walked just one.
Garrett didn’t get to face a lefty, with Kyle Farmer pinch-hitting for Nick Gordon and walking before Donavan Solano singled for Joey Gallo to put the Twins up 2-0. Christian Vazquez followed with a single of his own to load the bases against Garrett, but he was able to strike out Michael A. Taylor to end the inning.
Kansas City’s offense just couldn’t get anything started, with Lopez going 5.1 innings strong and striking out eight Royals without giving up a run. He surrendered just two hits.
It didn’t get any better. The Royals managed just two base runners and recorded zero hits after Melendez’s inning-ending double play
Jhoan Duran put Kansas City away quietly in the 9th to complete the shutout. The Royals get the day off tomorrow before facing Sonny Gray on Saturday afternoon.
Up Next: Royals v. Twins, Saturday, April 1, 3:10 PM CDT, Kauffman Stadium. RHP Jordan Lyles (0-0, -.— ERA) v. RHP Sonny Gray (0-0, -.— ERA)