The Minnesota Twins gave up a lot to get Pablo Lopez.
Made it seem like it was worth the price on a Wednesday night.
Lopez pitched his first career shutout, a four-hit complete with a career-high 12 strikeouts in the Twins’ 4–0 win over the Kansas City Royals.
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«That was my ‘Here I am’ performance,» Minnesota manager Rocco Baldelli said.
Lopez (5-5) retired 15 straight from the third to eighth innings, including a streak of six straight strikeouts, to help the Twins pull off a three-game sweep.
The 27-year-old right-hander, who came to Minnesota this season from Miami in a trade for MLB hitting leader Luis Arraez, had the Twins’ second shutout of a starter in less than two weeks after Joe Ryan spun one for the club’s first in five years. The last time the Twins had multiple shutouts in a season was in 2011, by Brian Duensing, Francisco Liriano and Carl Pavano.
«I just came here and tried to be nobody else,» Lopez said. «I tried to come here and let the Twins know who Pablo Lopez is.»
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Rookie Edouard Julien hit his second home run of the series to give the Twins the lead in the first, and Ryan Jeffers went deep in the seventh. Alex Kirilloff’s RBI single sparked a two-run third inning, Donovan Solano added an RBI double in the eighth, and the Twins won for the fifth time in six games since a humiliating sweep in Atlanta led them to declare the season starting over. .
Kyle Isabel hit a two-out double in the eighth to end Lopez’s hitting streak, but right fielder Max Kepler kept the shutout alive with a dive and Matt Duffy’s line drive to end that inning.
«He gives you a little bit of a break, he takes you out of the legs a little bit when he strikes out everyone,» Kepler said. «But you still have to be ready to make plays if the ball comes your way.»
Lopez drew no walks in his first scoreless appearance since beating the Royals on opening day. He received a rousing ovation from the crowd as he returned to the mound for the ninth, staying lithe with an exaggerated circle of arms as Van Halen’s «Right Now» blared through the stadium’s sound system.
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After a six-pitch ninth, immediately following a seven-pitch eighth, Lopez was doused with ice water and donned the team’s celebratory fishing vest that normally celebrates home run hitters in the dugout.
«Every little milestone that all of us as players achieve, we have to absorb,» said Lopez, who threw 76 of his 100 pitches for strikes. «Because as players, as people, we spend so much time thinking about failure that I think we don’t value the good times as much.»
According to Sportradar, only six pitchers in the majors this season have reached the 100-pitch mark with a higher strike percentage.
«They traded him for a reason. He’s got some really good material,» Royals manager Matt Quatraro said.
Alec Marsh (0-2) finished five innings with three hits allowed in his second career start for the Royals.
«There were a lot of encouraging things there,» Quatraro said.
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Jeffers scored from second on Kirilloff’s line drive to left with a head slide as MJ Melendez’s throw to home hit him on the left side of the neck. Carlos Correa came home from the mistake that claimed Melendez to make it 3-0 when a slightly dazed Jeffers rose to his feet to a standing ovation.
«He got like all muscle,» Jeffers said. «It’s like getting hit in the thigh or something. Thank God I have a thick neck.»
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Marsh pulled two runners off first base, both in challenges from the Royals after crew chief Dan Bellino initially made safe calls for Willi Castro in the fourth inning and Julien in the fifth.
Castro was the beneficiary of a second-inning replay review when he was first ejected on a stolen base attempt. Second base umpire Shane Livensparger’s ruling was overturned after the Twins’ challenge caused Castro to steal 18 of 21 this season.
Lopez also recorded a pickoff, ending the second inning catching Drew Waters leaning too far first.
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UNTIL NEXT TIME
Royals: RHP Jordan Lyles (1-11, 6.68 ERA) starts Thursday night to open a four-game series in Cleveland. RHP Tanner Bibee (5-2, 3.46 ERA) pitches for the Guardians.
Twins: After a rough day, RHP Bailey Ober (5-4, 2.70 ERA) takes the mound Friday night to start a three-game series against Baltimore. LHP Cole Irvin (1-3, 6.32 ERA) pitches for the Orioles.