KANSAS CITY — The Rangers jumped on Royals starter Jorge López with two runs in the first on a two-run homer from Willie Calhoun and never looked back on their way to a 6-1 win over the Royals on Wednesday night at Kauffman Stadium.
Here are three takeaways from the loss:
Long ball hurts Lopez
The right-hander came into the game having given up a team-high 10 home runs. And that total jumped by two.
Lopez settled down after giving up the homer to Calhoun and he was one strike away from a quality start. Logan Forsythe, on a 2-2 pitch, doubled to left-center with two out. Then, Ronald Guzman homered on a 1-2 curveball to give the Rangers a 5-1 lead.
“The plan from the beginning was to keep the ball down with all pitches,” Lopez said. “The mistakes I’ve made in the past is with offspeed pitches up. We tried to get curveballs down. But they were ready and had a good swing. I couldn’t do anything more.”
Added Royals manager Ned Yost: “They were just center-cut curveballs. They were down. They weren’t hanging curveballs by any sense. They just caught way too much of the plate.”
Lopez had no problem throwing strikes — he threw 75 out of 112 pitches.
And Lopez had no problem getting ahead of hitters. In fact, he had two strikes on 18 of the 26 hitters he faced. He struck out seven, but he also gave up four hits, including both home runs and a double, hit two batters and walked another.
“I felt like I could have done a better job of making pitches that look like strikes, and make guys swing and miss,” Lopez said.
Lopez worked 5 2/3 innings and gave up seven hits and five runs.
Rare off-night for Whit
The Royals believe leadoff man Whit Merrifield is one of their most reliable hitters with a runner on third and fewer than one out — over his career he is a .367 hitter in those situations.
Twice, Merrifield came up with runners on second and third and one out, and with the infield back, conceding the run. The first time in the second inning, Merrifield hit a squibber that started out foul down the first-base line, then rolled back fair for an easy out as the runner on third, rookie Kelvin Gutierrez, froze. Nicky Lopez then flied out.
In the fourth inning with the same situation, Merrifield struck out, and Lopez again flied out.
“I was extremely frustrated with my day, personally,” Merrifield said. “Second and third at-bats didn’t even come close to putting a barrel on the ball. Infield back, I got to do a better job. That was a big moment in the game.
“It’s frustrating in that situation because I don’t expect to get a hit every time, but I do expect to get a competitive at-bat and get a ground ball or a fly ball to get the run home.”
The Royals were just 1-for-8 with RISP with former teammate Mike Minor on the mound for the Rangers, and 1-for-11 for the game.
Sparkman does his job again
Reliever Glenn Sparkman, whom general manager Dayton Moore said could be in line for a spot in the rotation at some point, made a pretty good case again in relief of Lopez.
Sparkman got the final out of the sixth inning, then he kept the Rangers off the scoreboard in the seventh and eighth innings, hoping the Royals could rally. Sparkman gave up a home run to Shin-Soo Choo in the ninth, but the right-hander struck out three in his three innings of work and walked none.
“He did a great job,” Yost said of Sparkman. “We used [Jake] Diekman [Tuesday] night. We used [Brad] Boxberger, [Scott] Barlow. So going into [Thursday’s rubber game], we’re going to have pretty much a full ‘pen with our guys. Sparky bought that for us.”