Jorge López is the marvelously gifted pitcher who came to the KC Royals in 2018 as the price Milwaukee paid to acquire Kansas City fan favorite Mike Moustakas at the trade deadline. The deal paid an immediate dividend to the Royals when López spun a mesmerizing near-perfect game against Minnesota late that season, taking his gem into the ninth before losing it to the Twins’ leadoff hitter. No Kansas City pitcher before or since has been perfect so deep in a game.
That effort proved his stuff was every bit as spectacular and electrifying as advertised.
But López’s pitching soon became inconsistent and unpredictable, and he a pitching puzzle the Royals couldn’t solve. He never settled into the KC rotation or bullpen.
But the Royals always seemed to like López. They stuck by him, worked diligently with him and strove to harness his potential. Things never completely worked out, though, and the club finally surrendered to his inconsistency when they let him go after only one appearance early in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season. He soon signed with Baltimore where, with a club far worse than the Royals, he went 2-2 but allowed 30 runs in 38.1 innings.
Last season was for López, and by most standards, a disaster—he went 3-14 with a 6.07 ERA, an awful record mitigated only by the fact he worked for an abominable team woefully short on capable pitchers.
Don’t think, however, that the Royals relish facing López this weekend in Baltimore, where they start a three-city road trip this evening by playing the first of a trio of games with the Orioles.
They don’t. Catching up and exchanging pregame pleasantries will be fine, but seeing López in any of the three contests won’t be.
That’s because the puzzle that was Jorge López seems solved.
Ex-KC Royals hurler Jorge López is now Baltimore’s best relief pitcher.
López, who went back and forth between the rotation and bullpen in Kansas City, and pitched primarily out of the Orioles’ rotation last season, is Baltimore’s closer, so efficient in the position that seeing him on the mound Friday, Saturday or Sunday will surely mean the Royals are behind.
Lopez leads the O’s with four saves. He wasn’t eligible for one Thursday night when he entered Baltimore’s game against Minnesota, but the situation wasn’t any less important—the Orioles and Twins were tied 3-3 at the time. López got the final out of the inning, then picked up the win when the Orioles scored two in their half of the frame and he retired the side in the ninth.
He’s now 3-1 with a 1.32 ERA in 12 appearances. He’s fanned 15 in 13.2 innings (and walked six); his WHIP is a microscopic 0.95, his OBA an impressive .149.
In short, López has the same excellent stuff and potential, but is a different pitcher than he was in Kansas City, where he went 6-13, 3.42 in parts of three seasons. His eclectic sinker, curve, slider, four-seam fastball, changeup pitch assortment is obviously working better and his velocities have, per Baseball Savant, improved since his Royals days.
All of that is why Kansas City prefers not to see him on the mound this weekend.
Game times for the Kansas City-Baltimore series are 6:05 p.m. CDT tonight and Saturday, and 12:35 p.m. CDT Sunday.