KANSAS CITY — This is the Jorge Lopez that the Royals wanted to see.
Lopez, the rookie right-hander acquired from Milwaukee in the Mike Moustakas trade, turned in his finest outing of the season, and his longest, going seven innings and giving up just one run in the Royals’ 9-1 win over the Orioles on Sunday at Kauffman Stadium.
The Royals swept the Orioles and have won a season-high five straight, and seven of eight.
Lopez got his second Major League win — his first coming in 2015 at San Diego. Lopez gave up five hits and walked no one. Using a two-seam fastball with exceptional lateral movement, Lopez struck out a career-high eight batters, five of them looking.
“Command was good,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “But for me, he really utilized his fastball, pitched off his fastball, established his fastball. And he pitched off it with his slider, changeup and curveball. But the key was establishing his fastball first. He was filling up the zone and staying on the attack. Outstanding start for him.”
“When I pound the zone with my two-seamer in to both [sides], it’s always good for me,” Lopez added. “When I have my fastball, you can see [how] different I am.”
Lopez’s lone mistake was a first-pitch two-seamer that drifted back to the middle of the plate, which former Brewers teammate Jonathan Villar blasted the opposite way for his 11th home run in the first inning.
“Villar is a good player,” Lopez said. “If you miss something, [he’s] gonna get you.”
But that’s all the Orioles could muster against Lopez, who struck out the side in the second, and escaped a two-out, first-and-third jam in the fourth by running a two-seamer in on the hands of John Andreoli, who flied out to right.
“A good young pitcher,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said of Lopez. “He’s impressive.”
The Royals broke a 1-1 tie in the third inning with a lot of help from the Orioles’ defense. Starting pitcher David Hess committed errors on two separate pickoff plays, which allowed a runner to score, and Villar also made a throwing error to allow another run to score. Jorge Bonifacio doubled in a run during the inning.
Whit Merrifield drove in the fifth run with an RBI single in the fourth and also swiped his 30th bag of the season.