Lopez shuts down Royals as Twins begin defense of AL Central title with 4-1 win

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Pablo Lopez admitted to feeling some anxiety when the Twins ace stepped on the mound to face the Royals on opening day.

It didn't calm him down any when Maikel Garcia homered off him three pitches later.

The All-Star right-hander eventually managed to get his nerves under control, holding Kansas City to just three more hits without a walk while breezing through seven innings Thursday. And when Royce Lewis homered, and Carlos Correa had three hits and two RBIs, Minnesota had a 4-1 victory to begin its defense of its AL Central crown.

“You shake it off,” Lopez said of that ominous first at-bat. “Let it go, as hard as that can be sometimes. It was about not letting go of my plan, and attacking the zone. If you attack the zone, you'll get some good results.”

In fact, it was reminiscent of last season, when Lopez (1-0) shut down the Royals in a 2-0 victory to open the season.

Brock Stewart worked the eighth for Minnesota. Griffin Jax earned the save by handling the ninth.

“It was a tight game,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “You have to get in the weeds a little bit. Have good at-bats, put the ball in play when we have runners on base. I was pleased with the way we executed.”

Cole Ragans (0-1) set a Royals record for opening day with nine strikeouts in just six innings. But the 26-year-old left-hander, who arrived in a midseason trade with Texas last year, also allowed two runs on five hits and three walks.

“His stuff was good. He got two outs on three pitches in the first,” Royals manager Matt Quatraro said. “Correa is obviously a tough out for a lot of a lot of pitchers. (Lopez) was really good. They gave him a couple of runs. We’ll take that every time out.”

Chiefs coach Andy Reid began the festivities on a sun-splashed afternoon by hauling the club's latest Lombardi Trophy to the mound, where team owner Clark Hunt and president Mark Donovan held two other Super Bowl trophies. Then Reid, who worked as a vendor at Dodger Stadium as a teen, threw out the ceremonial first pitch to Hall of Fame third baseman George Brett.

Lewis delivered the first hit of the day for Minnesota, a no-doubt shot to left field with two outs in the first. Garcia delivered the second for Kansas City, a tying homer of his own into the left-field bullpen leading off the bottom half.

Minnesota pulled ahead in the third when Correa's double brought home Manuel Margot. The hit proved costly, though, when Lewis pulled up near third base with a right quad injury; Edouard Julien replaced him.

“He had an MRI and we're going to take some time to evaluate,” said Baldelli, adding that Max Kepler had an X-ray that came back clean after he fouled a pitch off his knee. “I hope Kep is going to play (Saturday) but we're just going to have to see.”

The Twins added two runs off Chris Stratton in the ninth to give their bullpen a cushion it hardly needed.

“Not the way you want to start the season on the injury side of things,” Baldelli said, “but how you want to see your team go out and fight and get a win on opening day.”

TRAINER'S ROOM

Twins: RHPs Jhoan Duran (right oblique strain), Josh Staumont (left calf strain), Justin Topa (left patellar tendinitis) and Zack Weiss (right shoulder strain) and LHP Caleb Thielbar (left hamstring strain) were placed on the injured list.

Royals: RHP Carlos Hernandez (right shoulder impingement), LHPs Jake Brentz (left hamstring strain) and Josh Taylor (left biceps) and INF Michael Massey (lower back strain) were placed on the IL. All of them remained in Arizona.

UP NEXT

After taking Friday off, the Twins send RHP Joe Ryan to the mound against Royals RHP Seth Lugo on Saturday. The Royals signed Lugo to a three-year, $45 million contract during their offseason overhaul of the starting rotation.

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