Pablo Lopez, Twins’ bullpen blank Royals 2-0 on opening day
Published 7:55 pm Thursday, March 30, 2023
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Twins manager Rocco Baldelli leaned forward in his visiting office, turned over his lineup card for opening day against the Royals and began reading the blue marker scribbled down the back.
“There were a lot of highlights today,” Baldelli said. “I had to make a list.”
It began with Pablo Lopez.
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The right-hander dominated Kansas City in his Minnesota debut Thursday, outpitching former Cy Young Award winner Zack Greinke by allowing just two hits while lasting into the sixth inning. Lopez’s bullpen took over from there, holding the Royals without another hit to finish off a 2-0 victory at breezy Kauffman Stadium.
“Obviously, I was aware of what the Twins gave up to bring me and the other guys,” said Lopez, acquired from Miami in January along with two other players for All-Star second baseman and fan favorite Luis Arraez.
“The team is putting this much trust in me,” Lopez said. “I’m going to make the most of it. That’s how I look at it.”
Lopez walked three and struck out eight before leaving after 5 1/3 innings. By that point, Trevor Larnach and pinch-hitter Donovan Solano had driven in runs to give Minnesota the lead, and a trio of relievers carried it into the ninth inning.
Jhoan Duran worked around a walk to earn the save, closing out a game played in a tidy 2 hours, 32 minutes.
“Carlos Correa made all the plays at shortstop you could hope for him to make. Byron Buxton swung the bat well. The bullpen was great,” Baldelli said, continuing down his list. “We’re hitting just about everyone, but we needed that to win.”
The biggest bummer? The Twins left the bases loaded three times and stranded 12 in all.
The Royals wish they had that many on base. Salvador Perez and Kyle Isbel had their only hits.
Greinke, who like Lopez lasted 5 1/3 innings, delivered a solid start for Kansas City to begin his 20th season in the big leagues. The 39-year-old right-hander allowed both runs on six hits and a walk while striking out four.
“Weird weather conditions,” said Greinke, who had trouble figuring out which direction the wind was blowing. “I had a lot of good pitches. They put (together) some pretty good at-bats. I got out of a jam or two. Overall it was a solid mix of everything.”
Even though Greinke and Lopez matched scoreless innings through the fifth, both had to wiggle out of trouble.
The Twins had a pair of singles and a walk in the first inning, but Greinke rebounded to get Nick Gordon to ground out and end the threat. The Royals’ erstwhile ace didn’t allow another hit until Christian Vazquez singled with one out in the fifth.
Lopez didn’t allow a hit until Perez’s shattered bat went about as far as the ball in the fourth. Lopez later loaded the bases on a double, hit batter and walk in the fifth, but he got MJ Melendez to bounce into an inning-ending double play.
The Twins finally broke though in the sixth. Larnach followed Buxton’s leadoff triple with a base hit, and Solano entered to face Royals reliever Amir Garrett. Solano proceeded to rip a single up the middle, extending the lead.
Kansas City never threatened the rest of the way.
“They had an opportunity and they capitalized,” new Royals manager Matt Quatraro said, “and we had one and we didn’t.”
The Royals made Perez, their seven-time All-Star catcher, the fourth captain in franchise history before the game. He’s the first to wear the “C” on his jersey since Mike Sweeney in 2007; the others were George Brett and Frank White.
Correa singled in his first at-bat after a bizarre offseason. Lucrative deals with the Giants and Mets fell apart over concerns about his surgically repaired ankle, and the two-time All-Star returned to Minnesota on a six-year, $200 million deal.
Twins: RHPs Ronny Henriquez (elbow inflammation) and Josh Winder (shoulder strain), INF Jorge Polanco (knee inflammation) and OFs Gilberto Celestino (thumb surgery) and Alex Kirilloff (wrist surgery) went on the injured list before the game.
Royals: OF Drew Waters (oblique strain) and LHP Daniel Lynch (rotator cuff strain) went on the IL before the game.
Twins: INF/OF Willi Castro had his contract selected from Triple-A St. Paul to provide depth with Polanco and Kirilloff out.
Royals: OFs Jackie Bradley Jr. and Franmil Reyes and INF Matt Duffy had contracts selected from Triple-A Omaha. LHP Richard Lovelady was traded to Atlanta and 1B Matt Beaty to San Francisco, both for cash.
After a day off Friday, Twins RHP Sonny Gray gets the start against Royals RHP Jordan Lyles on Saturday.