The Target Field crowd reacted to Max Kepler’s walk and Robbie Grossman’s single that spoiled Jorge Lopez’s perfect game in the bottom of the ninth with a mix of subdued cheers and raucous boos Saturday night.
Yet when Kansas City Royals rookie pitcher Jorge Lopez left the mound in the ninth inning of an eventual 4-1 victory, the announced 25,814 in attendance bestowed a respectful standing ovation on the 25-year-old, who waved to the fans in thanks.
“Last inning was when I got all the emotion,” Lopez said. “I should have not thought about it like, ‘Let’s just get another inning.’ But that’s experience from what we learned, and next time it will help get another win for the team.”
The Twins escaped what would have been the 24th perfect game in MLB history and then erased a still-rare no-hitter. Instead, in just his seventh career start, Lopez settled for a one-hitter after 110 pitches and 68 strikes. This was the 32nd one-hitter against the Twins, the most recent in 2015.
Meanwhile, the Twins avoided being victims of a no-hitter for the sixth time in their history, most recently in 2012, and the embarrassment of having it happen at home for the first time. The Twins remain on the wrong end of a perfect game just twice, in 1968 and 1998.
It was a little bit of face saved in a pretty egg-on-the-face season for the 64-77 Twins.
“We didn’t want to end up on the wrong side of history,” Grossman said.
The bottom of the ninth spoiled Lopez’s fun, as he walked Kepler before allowing a single to Grossman. The Royals then brought in Wily Peralta, who gave up an Ehire Adrianza sacrifice fly to score Kepler before closing out the game.
“Absolutely not. I don’t want anything to do with that,” Grossman said of any disappointment in missing out on being a part of baseball history. “I’m just glad I got the hit, and we don’t have to be on ‘SportsCenter.’ ”
Lopez stole the spotlight from Twins starter Jose Berrios, who is a year younger than Lopez and grew up about an hour away from him in Puerto Rico. Berrios hadn’t won a game or even made it past five innings since Aug. 4.
Berrios lasted six innings, giving up three hits and one earned run while striking out five and walking two. He had a rocky second inning before the sixth inning finally merited his removal.
In that inning, Royals shortstop Adalberto Mondesi singled before stealing two bases and coming home on an RBI single from Hunter Dozier. Berrios then hit Ryan O’Hearn with a pitch.
After he left, he watched his fellow Puerto Rican try to add his name to the record books.
“It was nice to see,’’ Berrios said through a translator. ‘‘It was fun to watch him, what he’s doing out there, and it’s a victory for Puerto Rico. It would have been nice to watch it, but it didn’t happen, and that’s it. But hopefully, he’s happy about it.”