Yoan Lopez Gets Exactly What He Needs
Yoan Lopez, rookie reliever for the Arizona Diamondbacks, had a tremendous start to the season. In his first 26 outings (beginning of the season through May 29), he allowed only two earned runs, eight walks, and 11 hits over a span of 22 innings. He had a microscopic 0.82 ERA. A bad outing in Denver against the Colorado Rockies on May 30 gave him a blown save. He allowed four hits and two earned runs in 2/3 of an inning, running his ERA up to 1.59.
Lopez bounced back like a boxing champion rising from the canvas, going through the entire month of June without allowing any runs – either inherited or charged to him. Over 10 appearances, he allowed three hits, walked three, struck out seven, and held opponents to a .097 batting average.
A Rough Start to July
Lopez pitched another scoreless third of an inning to open July, doing so in the seventh inning in Los Angeles against the Dodgers on July 2nd. He was the losing pitcher on July 3rd after giving up one run – the winning run – in the bottom of the 10th to the Dodgers. Three straight holds against Colorado, at St. Louis, and at Texas, respectively, seemed to help him right the ship. He entered a crucial four-game series at home against the Milwaukee Brewers with 13 holds and a 1.50 ERA.
The Brewers Series
Luck Was Not on His Side
He had a rough outing in the first game against the Brewers. He took the mound in the top of the eighth of a 1-1 ballgame. The first batter, Eric Thames, ripped a ball to right that bounced into the stands for a ground-rule double. Second baseman Keston Hiura then hit a bouncer that Lopez got his glove on but could not snag. That unfortunate play put runners on the corners with no one out instead of having a runner on second and one out. Next, shortstop Orlando Arcia singled to center, scoring Thames and putting runners on second and third.
Matters grew worse when Hiura and Arcia attempted a double steal. Catcher Carson Kelly – a normally dependable fielder – overthrew the third baseman, bringing Hiura in to score and putting Arcia on third. Then Jesus Aguilar flied to right, bringing Arcia across for the third run of the inning. Cain then rubbed salt in the wound when he singled to center, chasing Lopez from the game.
Tomorrow Is Another Day
It is impossible to say that no runs would have scored had Lopez managed to field Hiura’s ground ball, but it is safe to say that the inning would have played out differently. However, baseball is a cruel game – sometimes lucky plays happen, and sometimes unlucky plays do. But, one beautiful thing about baseball is that, usually, there is another game tomorrow. Lopez pitched the next day, entering the game in the top of the seventh with a runner on second, one out, and the Diamondbacks holding a 10-7 lead. He retired all five hitters he faced, doing so via a foul fly to right, a called strikeout to end the inning, a fly to right, a fly to center, and a grounder to short.
Another Bad Outing Rattles the Confidence of Yoan Lopez
Two days later, Lopez was rested up and ready to go again for the fourth and final game of the series against the Brewers. He entered the game in the eighth with the score tied at four. He faced Hiura again and surrendered a triple to right. Then third baseman Mike Moustakas singled up the middle to score Hiura. Lopez then got Aguilar to hit the ground ball he needed, but it moved too slowly to be a double play, so now a runner was on second with one out. Then pinch hitter Yasmani Grandal smashed a double off the wall in center, scoring Moustakas and giving the Brewers a 6-4 lead. Next, Arcia flied to left for the second out. With the next hitter being left-handed, Lopez left the game in favor of lefty T.J. McFarland. The runner Lopez bequeathed to Gamel scored, giving Lopez three earned runs and three hits over only 2/3 of an inning. After the three outings against the Brewers, Lopez’s ERA jumped to 2.79.
Yoan Lopez Gets a Chance at Redemption
Manager Torey Lovullo maintained his confidence in Lopez, saying, “He got banged around a little bit. He’s not used to that.” He continued, saying, “We’re gonna pick him up, we’re gonna coach him up, and we’re gonna do what we do best to get him back on his feet again…. He’s an exceptional pitcher that makes things look easy.”
Three days later, Lopez got his chance. Closer Greg Holland took the mound in the top of the ninth with a 5-2 lead over the Baltimore Orioles. He threw a total of nine pitches. Only one was a strike. Lovullo, seeing that Holland had no command, yanked him from the game and put Lopez in. This was the situation that elite relievers thrive on – two on, no outs, and the tying run at the plate.
First, he faced Jonathan Villar, who swung at the first pitch and flied to left for the first out. Next was slugger Trey Mancini, who also swung at the first pitch. He flied to right for the second out. That brought up Anthony Santander. He took the first pitch for a ball but popped up the second pitch. It went high into foul ground near home and on the third base side. Third baseman Eduardo Escobar nearly overran the ball, falling onto his back as he caught the final out of the game.
Outings like the one Yoan Lopez had against the Orioles tend to build confidence. His manager trusted him enough to use him as the fireman in a messy situation. Then Lopez went out there and got the job done. For a team trying to win the National League Wild Card, this is huge, especially with the extreme shortage of dependable relief pitching this season. Lopez is young, but more outings like this could propel him to a solid or even elite-level career.
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