OMAHA, Neb. (AP) – Nicky Lopez hit his first major league homer in the stadium where he played college ball, Homer Bailey allowed two hits in six shutout innings and the Kansas City Royals beat the Detroit Tigers 7-3 Thursday night in the first big league regular season game played in Nebraska.
The Royals won two of three over the Tigers for their first series win since April 12-14 against Cleveland.
The game at TD Ameritrade Park coincided with the buildup to the College World Series, which begins Saturday. All eight CWS teams were among the sellout crowd of 25,454 and participated in a pregame ceremony with the major league teams.
Lopez played at Creighton University, whose campus is six blocks away, and hit just one home run in 75 games at TD Ameritrade from 2014-16. The rookie infielder returned to Omaha 8 for 61 in his previous 15 games and sat out Wednesday’s game in Kansas City before going 2 for 4.
In his first trip to the plate, he lined Matthew Boyd’s 1-1 pitch into the right field bullpen leading off the third inning. Martin Maldonado followed with a double and came home when Boyd was called for a balk.
The Royals tacked on three runs in the fourth and one each the next two innings on their way to their highest run total since May 29. They had scored a total of eight runs over their previous four games.
Bailey (5-6) gave up a pair of singles, walked three, hit a batter and struck out six before Jorge Lopez came on to start the seventh. Dawel Lugo tripled past diving right fielder Whit Merrifield and scored on a groundout for the Tigers’ first run.
Boyd (5-5), who pitched for Oregon State in the 2013 CWS and threw a four-hit shutout against Indiana, lasted four innings in his shortest outing in six starts.
Merrifield doubled twice and drove in two in his return to Omaha. He was the hero of South Carolina’s 2010 national championship team, singling in the winning run against UCLA in the deciding game of the CWS finals in the last game played at Rosenblatt Stadium.
Tigers: SS Niko Goodrum returned to the lineup after missing one game after fouling a ball off his kneecap Tuesday. … Casey Mize, the No. 1 overall pick of the 2018 draft, left his Thursday start for Double-A Erie after 2 1/3 innings with right shoulder soreness, vice president of player development Dave Littlefield said.
Royals: 1B Lucas Duda (back) was reinstated from the injured list after missing 42 games. He hit .286 with a homer and three doubles in his 12-game rehab assignment at Omaha. …. LF Alex Gordon, who grew up 50 miles away in Lincoln and played for Nebraska, was out of the lineup with a shoulder bruise, the result of getting hit by a pitch Wednesday. … 3B Hunter Dozier (thorax) will take batting practice on the field Friday and is getting closer to returning, manager Ned Yost said.
RHP Brad Keller (3-8, 4.29 ERA) is scheduled to start Friday night when the Royals open a six-game road trip at Minnesota. LHP Ryan Carpenter (1-3, 7.89) will start the Tigers’ opener of a three-game home weekend set against Cleveland.