KANSAS CITY, Mo. The debate about the future of Royals pitcher Jorge Lopez is not necessarily whether he will survive on a major-league staff but rather where he will reside within one. Recently, Baseball America dubbed him the best reliever in the Pacific Coast League, following a survey of Class AAA managers.
But when Lopez arrived in Kansas City via trade with Milwaukee last month, the standings dictated the blueprint for 2018. Offered an opportunity to look toward the future, the Royals placed him in their rotation, his original projected lodging when he was drafted in 2011.
His outing Sunday favored that of a reliever.
After Lopez shut Cleveland down for three innings, the Indians pounced on him in the fourth on their way to a 12-5 win Sunday afternoon at Kauffman Stadium.
Lopez, who spent the majority of 2018 in Milwaukees bullpen, allowed five runs in his third start since joining the Royals in a trade involving Mike Moustakas.
Its a completely different animal when you come from the bullpen, Lopez said. I feel like Im still getting to the point where I want to, but I have to work hard. I will do it for sure to get to that six, seven, eight innings the Royals need.
Trying for just their second three-game sweep of the season, the Royals (40-91) hit three home runs that surpassed 430 feet Whit Merrifield in the first, Salvador Perez in the fourth, and Lucas Duda in the sixth. But division-leading Cleveland (74-56) effectively bunched its hits together.
Lopez, who fell to 0-4 between his time with the Royals and Brewers this year, breezed through the initial three frames, allowing just one hit.
The second time through the order proved more difficult to navigate. Cleveland put six straight men on base in the fourth. Edwin Encarnacion walked. Yonder Alonso doubled. Melky Cabrera singled. Jason Kipnis singled. Roberto Perez walked. Greg Allen doubled.
I think he got a little tired, Royals catcher Drew Butera said. Hot day, and I dont know if hes been used to that. He went through the first couple of innings nicely but worked a lot. Then (he) got a little tired and left a couple pitches over the plate.
The final damage in the fourth inning was five runs, and Lopezs afternoon was finished. His line: Four innings, five earned runs, five hits, three walks and four strikeouts.
Every sinker I was throwing, it was up in the zone, Lopez said. Thats when you get problems. I need to focus on down in the zone to get out of those big innings and have less damage.
The inning prevented an unlikely sweep the only other Royals sweep came last month against Minnesota despite the three home runs. All came against Cleveland starter Shane Bieber, who lasted 5 1/3 innings and gave up four runs.
Merrifield led off the bottom of the first with his 10th home run of the season. After a breakthrough 2017, the power was late arriving this year. But better late than never. Merrifield hit his fifth home run of the month 430 feet to left center field after collecting just five in the initial four months of the season.
Perez added a 435-foot solo shot to lead off the fourth. Duda sent a baseball 432 feet into the right field stands, scoring Alex Gordon and cutting a Cleveland lead to 7-4 in the fourth. Duda also had a run-scoring single four innings later. Duda had three hits and a home run in Saturdays win.
Hes been hot. Try to ride it best you can, Yost said.
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