ST. PETERSBURG — Right-hander Jorge Lopez, making his second start for the Royals, was without question much sharper than when he gave up six runs in his Royals debut.
This time, Lopez worked through some traffic on the bases but provided five serviceable innings in the Royals’ 1-0 loss to the Rays at Tropicana Field on Monday night.
Lopez was nicked for five hits, mostly of the soft-contact variety — they included a bunt single and two infield hits. Lopez walked three and struck out three.
“I feel much better [this time out],” Lopez said. “The emotions, everything, the plan when we go out there, we just had a really good connection as a team.”
The only run Lopez surrendered came in the second. With one out, a bunt single by Ji-Man Choi, a fielder’s choice and a single by Kevin Kiermaier put runners at the corners with two outs.
Lopez looked to be out of trouble when Willy Adames grounded out softly to third. But the Rays challenged the out call at first and the play was overturned, extending the inning and allowing a run to score.
“I thought [Lopez] did a good job,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “He got his pitch count a little elevated. But I also thought he had a lot of pitches that could have gone his way but didn’t that would have changed some situations. He could have gotten quicker decisions [on hitters]. They were pitches that could have gone either way.
“But I thought he threw the ball extremely well. The one run they got was on a bunt and an infield hit.”
Lopez agreed about missing on some borderline pitches, saying, “Yeah, for sure, everything was close. I was making pitches. I walked two guys, three guys, but I was making pitches, everything was close and where I wanted it. That’s why I feel like it was a battle today.”
Lopez, who threw 95 pitches with 57 for strikes, worked out of a bases-loaded, two-out jam in the third by getting Joey Wendle to ground out.
“The guys just went up there and fouled, fouled, fouled,” Lopez said of the Rays. “When you’ve got guys like that you’ve got to keep making pitches and see what happens. I feel everything was good. My rhythm, timing, was good.”
Right-hander Jake Newberry made his Major League debut for the Royals in the sixth inning. Newberry pitched 1 2/3 scoreless innings with two strikeouts.
“Jake came in and did a good job,” Yost said. “He gave us two good innings for the most part.”