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Nicky Lopez hits first career HR to lead Royals to win in MLB game in Omaha

Royals’ Nicky Lopez on his first career MLB home run

Kansas City Royals rookie Nicky Lopez hit his first career MLB home run in his former college stadium in Omaha.
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Kansas City Royals rookie Nicky Lopez hit his first career MLB home run in his former college stadium in Omaha.

As a prelude to the College World Series, the first Major League Baseball game played in Nebraska should have offered a homecoming for one of the state’s most accomplished hitters.

An injury tarnished that footnote.

A less-publicized homecoming took center stage in its place.

Nicky Lopez hit his first career home run in the stadium where he played his college games, the start of a 7-3 Royals victory Thursday against the Tigers at Omaha’s TD Ameritrade Park.

In what was supposed to be the lone nationally-televised game for the Royals this season, the Lopez home run fell in the Tigers’ bullpen in right field as the ESPN cameras cut off due to technical difficulties.

“The funny thing about it is, I said, ‘Nicky, is your dad sitting home watching this?’ And he said, ‘Yeah!’ And I said, ‘I hate to tell you but the TV truck just broke down and they weren’t televising it,’” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “That was a bit of a shame.”

Otherwise, all good.

Two days before the College World Series, the Royals and Tigers sold out the tournament’s venue, 25,454 in attendance for the first big-league game played in the state.

A pro-Royals crowd saw the team win its first series in two months.

“It was a great crowd,” said Royals leadoff hitter Whit Merrifield, who in 2010 secured South Carolina a national championship with a game-winning hit in the College World Series championship in Omaha. “It was great to see a sellout. I thought they did a great job putting this on. Even flew my old college coach out to watch the game.”

The victory was powered — yes, powered — by Lopez. Well, and the best start that pitcher Homer Bailey has furnished in two months. Bailey fired six shutout innings, giving up just two hits. He had not won a game since May 10.

The wait for the Lopez bomb was much longer. Lopez, 24, pulled his first career jack just beyond the right field fence. A memorable moment was made more so by the venue. Lopez starred at Creighton, the permanent tenant inside TD Ameritrade Park.

A familiar setting, but not exactly a familiar occurrence. In 75 career home games with Creighton, Lopez had one home run. It came in his final game.

One for one in the bigs.

“My first home run was against Nebraska my junior year — it was the same exact spot that it was today,” Lopez said. “It was kinda cool — first game back since I got drafted.”

A recognizable name for the crowd shined as another sat. Gordon, a Nebraska native who also helped the Nebraska Cornhuskers win their first ever College World Series game in 2005, received the day off after being hit by a pitch in the back on Wednesday. He completed the game Wednesday but said he lost strength in the area, so Yost opted for caution.

“I wrestled with it all night last night. I wrestled with it on the plan even when I got here,” Yost said. “Alex is a warrior. He’s going to want to go. Because we’re here, it means a lot to him. I understand that. Quite frankly, Alex is the heart and soul of our team, along with Whit (Merrifield). I gotta make sure that I don’t beat him into the ground.”

Bailey (5-6) limited the Tigers to five base runners in his 102-pitch start. He struck out six, all of them in the initial three innings. It’s his first scoreless outing since April 13, when he lasted seven.

And it continues a sudden trend. The Royals rotation has produced six straight quality starts and five straight games allowing two runs or fewer. It has a 2.09 earned run average over the last complete turn through the five-man rotation.

In support, Lopez, Merrifield, Cheslor Cuthbert, and Martin Maldanado each had two hits. The Royals scored five off Tigers starter Matt Boyd, the largest number he’s allowed this season.

“It was really neat to come and play a good game for our fans,” Yost said. “This win means more to me because of that than breaking the (series) streak. I just wanted us to put on a good show for our fans, and luckily we did.”

Royals 7, Tigers 3

Detroit

AB

R

H

BI

BB

SO

Avg.

Jones cf

2

0

1

0

0

0

.257

Reyes cf

2

1

1

1

0

0

.667

Stewart lf

5

0

0

0

0

3

.243

Castellanos rf

3

1

0

0

2

1

.260

Cabrera dh

4

0

1

0

0

1

.286

Rodriguez pr-dh

1

0

1

1

0

0

.221

Dixon 1b

4

0

2

0

1

0

.289

Goodrum ss

3

0

0

0

1

1

.230

Castro 2b

2

0

0

1

1

0

.268

Greiner c

4

0

0

0

0

2

.162

Lugo 3b

4

1

1

0

0

0

.231



Kansas City

AB

R

H

BI

BB

SO

Avg.

Merrifield rf

5

2

2

2

0

2

.294

Mondesi ss

5

0

0

0

0

2

.277

Cuthbert 1b

5

0

2

1

0

2

.333

Soler dh

3

1

1

0

1

1

.245

Gutierrez 3b

4

0

0

0

0

1

.260

Lopez 2b

4

2

2

1

0

1

.216

Maldonado c

4

1

2

1

0

1

.202

Gore lf

2

1

1

0

2

1

.286

Hamilton cf

3

0

0

0

1

1

.227



Detroit

000

000

111

3

7

1

Kansas City

020

311

00x

7

10

1

E—Goodrum (6), Gutierrez (3). LOB—Detroit 11, Kansas City 8. 2B—Merrifield 2 (18), Cuthbert (2), Maldonado (6). 3B—Lugo (3). HR—Lopez (1), off Boyd. RBIs—Castro (2), Reyes (1), Rodriguez (22), Merrifield 2 (31), Cuthbert (10), Lopez (5), Maldonado (8). SF—Castro.

Detroit

IP

H

R

ER

BB

SO

ERA

Boyd, L, 5-5

4

6

5

4

2

7

3.35

Torres

2

4

2

2

0

3

11.25

Adams

2

0

0

0

2

2

7.00

Kansas City

IP

H

R

ER

BB

SO

ERA

Bailey, W, 5-6

6

2

0

0

3

6

5.37

Lopez

1

1

1

1

0

1

6.79

McCarthy

1

2

1

1

1

0

6.32

Peralta

2/3

2

1

1

1

1

4.66

Kennedy, S, 6-8

1/3

0

0

0

0

0

3.67

Inherited runners-scored—Kennedy 2-0. HBP—Bailey (Jones). WP—Torres. T—3:17. A—25,454 (24,000).

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