Twins avoid no-hit scare in ninth, fall to Royals

Kepler breaks up perfect game before Grossman hits line drive to end no-no bid

September 9th, 2018

MINNEAPOLIS -- After scoring 10 runs in the series opener on Friday, the Twins were nearly on the wrong side of history Saturday night, as Royals right-hander took a perfect game into the ninth inning, only to come up three outs short.

Lopez, acquired from the Brewers for Mike Moustakas before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline, entered the ninth having retired all 24 batters he faced. But he walked Max Kepler on five pitches and surrendered a single on a line drive to center from Robbie Grossman to end the no-hit bid. It also ended Lopez's night, but it wasn't enough for the Twins in a 4-1 loss at Target Field.

"First of all, the kid pitched a great game," Grossman said. "We didn't want to end up on the wrong side of history. I'm glad I got the hit and at least give us a chance at the end."

After Lopez departed, Twins fans gave him a standing ovation for his effort. ended the shutout bid with a sacrifice fly, but was able to pick up the save.

"You're still trying to find ways to win," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "We kept it close. You're just kind of waiting to see what happens. You get caught up a little bit of spectating. At the same time, trying to manage and find a way to come back and keep us as close as you can."

Lopez, 25, entered with just six career starts, two career wins and a 4.47 ERA in 52 1/3 innings in the Majors with the Brewers and Royals. He'd been used in relief in Milwaukee since he made two starts in 2015, but entered with a 5.66 ERA in four starts with Kansas City since the trade.

He was helped by his defense a few times, including left fielder making a sliding catch to rob Jake Cave of a hit in the fifth and shortstop fielding a slow roller to get in the seventh.

"They made some nice plays, no question," Molitor said. "We hit a couple balls fairly well that were gloved or infielders made nice plays."

It overshadowed a solid start from , who went six innings, allowing one run on three hits and two walks in his best start in more than a month. He shook off his recent struggles, as he had a 6.65 ERA over his previous five starts and hadn't gone at least six innings since Aug. 4.

"I feel happy and content about my outing tonight," Berrios said. "It was a good one. He was better than me. I was locating my pitches. My fastball and my breaking balls were falling into place, but it's just that he was better than me tonight."

Related

Berrios ran into trouble in the second, loading the bases with two outs, but got out of the jam by getting to fly out to center. But he wasn't as fortunate in the sixth, when Mondesi reached on a bunt single and stole second and third with two outs. Berrios was a strike away from avoiding damage but gave up an RBI single to on a two-strike curveball.

Right-hander replaced Berrios in the seventh, but struggled, allowing three runs on three hits while recording just two outs. He surrendered an RBI single to Whit Merrifield and an RBI double to Mondesi before lefty Andrew Vasquez was brought in to face Gordon. Vasquez gave up a bloop RBI single, with the run charged to Duffey.

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED

Kepler ends perfecto: Kepler came to the plate in the ninth knowing what was at stake and quickly took two balls to get the count in his favor. After a called strike on a fastball, Kepler took two more balls, including an outside fastball for ball four, to draw a walk and end the perfect-game bid.

"I was just looking to have a good at-bat and give my team a chance to do something," Kepler said. "We're yelling in the dugout to jinx it. I definitely had some extra adrenaline running through me, because I was excited for him. It's the ninth inning, you want to get down and dirty and grind out a good at-bat for your team."

SOUND SMART

Lopez is the fifth pitcher to lose a perfect game in the ninth inning since recorded the 23rd perfect game in baseball history in 2012. He joins , , Max Scherzer and Rich Hill.

HE SAID IT

"Once I finished my six innings, it was nice to see. It was fun to watch him, what he's doing out there, and it's a victory for Puerto Rico." -- Berrios, on Lopez, who was his teammate in the World Baseball Classic

UP NEXT

Right-hander Chase De Jong, acquired in the trade that sent Zach Duke to the Mariners, will make his Twins debut when he starts at Target Field in the series finale against the Royals on Sunday at 1:10 p.m. CT. He posted a 3.20 ERA with 34 strikeouts and 12 walks in 39 1/3 innings with Triple-A Rochester before being brought up as a September callup on Tuesday. Veteran right-hander will start for Kansas City after being activated from the disabled list.