Pablo Lopez faced traffic on the basepaths all night on Friday. The 23-year-old starting pitcher could only watch as the Kansas City Royals got their leadoff hitter to reach base in six of his seven innings against him.
Lopez, making his third start for the Miami Marlins since coming off a two-plus month stint on the injured list, found ways to limit the damage.
But with little support from the offense — a recurring theme this season — Lopez and the Marlins fell 3-0 to the Royals to begin a three-game series at Marlins Park. The Marlins (50-90) have been shut out 21 times this season.
Lopez went 6 1/3 innings — his longest outing since returning from the IL — struck out six and didn’t walk a batter.
But runs in the third and seventh ultimately proved to be the difference. The Royals (52-90) struck first when Whit Merrifield’s two-out single brought home Meibrys Viloria, who led off the third with a single. Kansas City added an insurance run on Ryan O’Hearn’s RBI double in the seventh that plated Alex Gordon.
Hunter Dozier’s solo home run against Jeff Brigham in the eighth inning gave the Royals an extra insurance run.
Merrifield, who entered Friday with an MLB-leading 181 hits, went 2 for 4 with a walk.
Lopez gave up eight hits in the loss but he found ways to contain the Royals. His defense turned double plays in the first, second and sixth innings. He stranded three more.
Lopez’s biggest contribution, however, nearly came with what he did with his bat in the fifth inning.
With two outs and catcher Bryan Holaday on first, Lopez turned on a Jorge Lopez curveball and sent it 393 feet before it bounced off the top of the wall in left-center field — a foot or so shy of going over for a go-ahead home run.
But a relay throw from center field to the infield to home plate resulted in the inning-ending out as Holaday tried to score.
The double was one of just seven hits by the Marlins offense.
An two-out, eighth inning rally attempt — created by a Curtis Granderson pinch-hit single and Jon Berti double — fell short when Isan Diaz’s fly ball to left-center field died on the warning track.
This and that
▪ The Marlins are 8-10 in interleague play this season and will need to win both of their remaining games against the Royals to avoid a losing record against American League teams.
▪ Reliever Tyler Kinley, a Plantation native, has strung together five consecutive scoreless and hitless appearances. He has allowed just three walks while striking out four over five innings.
▪ Starlin Castro’s eight-game hitting streak came to an end Friday. The veteran infielder had a .455 batting average (15 for 33) with four home runs, three doubles, seven RBI and 10 runs scored in that span.
▪ Lewis Brinson started in right field for the first time this season, and made a dart of a throw to third base on a Dozier flyout for an inning-ending double play in the sixth.