In a mid-May KC Royals home game, a rookie and a veteran both reached exciting milestones in a lopsided win. It was a memorable night for Nicky Lopez and Whit Merrifield.
As the KC Royals approached mid-May, it was becoming painfully obvious that a free agent signing was failing. Chris Owings, a utility man brought aboard in one of General Manager Dayton Moore’s most inexplicable acquisitions, couldn’t hit a lick but kept finding his way into Manager Ned Yost‘s lineups.
At the same time, a top Royals’ prospect was rapidly approaching major league readiness at AAA Omaha. After hitting a cumulative .308 with nine homers and 53 RBI’s for Omaha and AA Northwest Arkansas the season before, Nicky Lopez was torching Pacific Coast League pitching with a .353/.457/500 slash and .957 OPS. And he could play shortstop and second base, the kind of versatility that endeared the struggling Owings to Yost and Moore.
But for whatever reason, Moore wasn’t quite ready to bring Lopez to Kansas City; then, in a stunning change of heart almost immediately after saying Lopez wouldn’t be coming soon, Moore summoned the fifth-round 2016 draft choice to KC on May 14 and Yost wasted no time putting him in the lineup. Lopez made his first major league start that night.
After going 0-3 with a walk against the Rangers and facing in the seventh inning what would likely be his final at-bat of the evening (KC held a big lead over the Rangers), Lopez lined Ariel Jurado‘s first pitch into left for his first major league hit, scoring Whit Merrifield from third for his first big league RBI.
And speaking of Merrifield, he was on base by virtue of his 500th career hit, a run-scoring double off Jurado immediately before Lopez singled him home.
The 11-5 victory over the Rangers was indeed a milestone night for rookie Lopez and veteran Merrifield. And Lopez earned the post-victory Salvy Splash Merrifield gave him.