Nicky Lopez probably doesn't welcome his annual slow start to the season. But the 24-year-old's ability to get equally hot at the plate certainly makes it easier to bear.
Kansas City's No. 8 prospect amassed three hits for the third straight game while falling a homer shy of completing the second cycle of his career as Triple-A Omaha defeated Oklahoma City, 8-5, at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark.
Video: Lopez smashes triple to right
Lopez -- who went yard twice during Tuesday's loss to the Dodgers -- began the year hitless in 14 at-bats, but has since gone 15-for-30 (.500) during a seven-game hitting streak.
"I don't really know why this happens to me," he said. "It's sort of part of my track record to get off to bad starts, but it's something I definitely don't want to continue. It makes it a little harder on me and gives me some sleepless nights, but it's baseball and that's what happens sometimes."
The native of Naperville, Illinois, helped ignite a first-inning rally with a single to center field before slashing an RBI double to left in the third. Lopez led off the fifth with his first triple of the season to right and scored on Cheslor Cuthbert's two-run homer later in the frame. Needing a roundtripper to complete the cycle, Lopez went down swinging to end the sixth and grounded out in the ninth.
"I knew [going into my fourth at-bat] that I needed the homer," he said. "But I didn't change my approach. I was thinking about the homer and trying to get a good pitch to hit, but those last two pitchers I faced had some good stuff. But yeah, I definitely knew the situation."
Gameday box score
The Creighton product hit for the cycle last June 21 with Double-A Northwest Arkansas as part of a career-high five-hit night against Tulsa. His offensive surge pushed his slash line up to .341/.408/.591 through 11 games.
"I felt good coming out of Spring Training and I wanted to keep that going," he said. "The balls just weren't falling even though I hit a few hard. That's where a good support system comes up big. My family, friends and roommate Nick Dini all helped talk me off the plank. Obviously, I don't want to get off to a slow start, but it happens. Once that first ball got through, it was a big confidence boost."
A fifth-round Draft pick of the Royals in 2016, Lopez has batted .279 or better in all three of his three Minor League seasons heading into this year. He hit a professional-best .308/.382/.417 with 75 runs scored, 53 RBIs and 15 stolen bases in 130 games between Northwest Arkansas and Omaha in 2018. He was a non-roster invitee to big league camp this spring and made the most of his opportunities, batting .333 with a double and three RBIs in 45 Cactus League at-bats.
"Coming back to Omaha after spending my college years here and having success was big for me," Lopez explained. "Knowing that you're so close to the Majors and one call away is a huge confidence boost. It fuels my hunger and allows me to believe I deserve to be here. Being so close [to the Majors] can be a distraction. It's what I've been dreaming about since I was a kid, but I try and stay in the moment as much as I can."
2019 MiLB include
Dini doubled twice, drove in a run and tied his career high with three hits while Elier Hernandez slugged his second long ball of the year and plated three runs.
Kevin Lenik (2-0) scattered three hits and two walks with two strikeouts over 2 1/3 innings in relief of starter Zach Lovvorn. The Omaha right-hander was reached for three runs on six hits and a walk with two punchouts in two frames. Andres Machado, Tim Hill and Kevin McCarthy combined to allow two runs on three hits with six walks with six strikeouts over the final 3 2/3 innings.
Dodgers No. 29 prospect Matt Beaty doubled, singled and walked while Drew Jackson and Connor Joe combined to go 6-for-8 with a double, three runs and an RBI.
Righty Daniel Corcino (0-1) surrendered six runs on nine hits with three strikeouts in five innings for Oklahoma City.