Kansas City Royals

Royals offense ignites late as Nicky Lopez and Nick Dini provide key runs

Royals manager Ned Yost discusses win over Orioles, Lopez and Dini homers

Kansas City Royals manager Ned Yost reacts to his team's 5-4 win over the Baltimore Orioles at Camden Yards on Monday, Aug. 19, 2019. Jorge Lopez pitched well in a spot start. Nicky Lopez started a sixth-inning rally, and he and Nick Dini hit homers.
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Kansas City Royals manager Ned Yost reacts to his team's 5-4 win over the Baltimore Orioles at Camden Yards on Monday, Aug. 19, 2019. Jorge Lopez pitched well in a spot start. Nicky Lopez started a sixth-inning rally, and he and Nick Dini hit homers.

For five innings the Royals appeared to be in danger of getting no-hit by a local kid in former Gardner Edgerton High School pitcher John Means. Then all of a sudden, they solved the riddle and turned the night around.

A three-run sixth inning put the Royals in front and they stayed there on their way to a 5-4 win in front of an announced 11,659 in the opening game of a three-game series at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on Monday night.

The Royals (45-80) recorded their 45th win of the season on manager Ned Yost’s 65th birthday.

Royals infielder Nicky Lopez hit his second career home run in the majors, the first in a big-league ballpark, and on the next pitch catcher Nick Dini launched the first homer of his major-league career.

Dini’s home run proved the difference in the game.

“I was looking for a sinker and I saw it kinda up, so I put a good swing on it,” Dini said. “I was luckily able to have enough to get it out of here.”

Royals fill-in starter Jorge Lopez didn’t make it out of the second inning of his previous spot start against the Detroit Tigers on Aug. 8. Lopez gave up five runs on four hits (one home run) and three walks in 1 1/3 innings in Detroit.

On Monday night, Lopez held the Orioles (39-86) to one run on two hits, two walks and a hit batter in five innings. He gave up just one extra-base hit, which cost him the lone run he allowed.

Lopez credited his catcher, Dini, for keeping him focused after a slow start. Lopez got through five innings on 63 pitches.

“I think it’s all mental stuff,” Jorge Lopez said of the difference between this outing and his previous one. “I’ve got to pound the zone and keep attacking guys, that’s the only way. I’ve got a great group of guys in back of me. They always help me, so I’ve got to keep pounding the zone, attack the hitters, get ahead of the count and everything will be fine.”

Means, a former high school teammate of Royals outfielder Bubba Starling, allowed three runs (two earned) on two walks and four hits. He also struck out four in five innings. After he threw five no-hit innings, Means didn’t record an out in the sixth.

Nicky Lopez smacked a single to left field to start the sixth and Dini’s grounder to shortstop didn’t result in an out thanks to an error as they attempted to get the lead runner, Lopez, at second base.

The ball got away from second baseman Hanser Alberto and Lopez advanced to third. White Merrifield, the next batter, lined a single back up the middle to drive in the Royals’ first run.

Hunter Dozier followed with a two-run single on a ball that just got down in front of left fielder Jace Peterson by a matter of inches. After Means walked Jorge Soler, Orioles manager Brandon Hyde handed the game over to the bullpen.

“I was seeing it pretty good tonight,” Lopez said. “My first at-bat I thought I’d beat the left fielder, but he caught it. I was just trying to put a good swing on the ball. These past couple weeks I’m just been kinda going back to basics. I’ve been grinding a little bit, so just to be able to see the ball and hit it, put the best swing on it — that’s what I’m trying to do.”

The Royals scored just three runs out of that inning and left the bases loaded, and the Orioles pulled within a run on Jonathan Villar’s leadoff homer in the bottom of the sixth. But the big blasts from Nicky Lopez and Dini gave them a 5-2 lead going into the bottom of the seventh.

DJ Stewart’s RBI single in the seventh made it a 5-3, and Royals closer Ian Kennedy allowed a solo home run in the ninth inning to make it a one-run game. The tying run also reached base, but he held on for his 22nd save of the season.

“(Nicky Lopez) and Nick Dini hitting back-to-back homers to give us the fourth and the fifth run, which was eventually the winning run, was big especially from the bottom of our order,” Yost said. “The middle of our order has been producing so much power, but for the bottom of the order to come through like that and help us get this win was real beneficial for us.”

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Lynn Worthy covers the Kansas City Royals and Major League Baseball for The Star. A native of the Northeast, he’s covered high school, collegiate and professional sports for The Lowell Sun, Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin, Allentown Morning Call and The Salt Lake Tribune. He’s won awards for sports features and sports columns.
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