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KANSAS CITY, MO. – Even though he's done it before — same park, same opponent, in fact — Pablo López said he felt some Opening Day nervousness as he took the mound Thursday.

One batter in, it got a lot worse.

The anxiety level "went up quite a bit" when Royals infielder Maikel Garcia hit his third pitch into the Twins bullpen, López said. "But I had a great support system in [catcher Ryan] Jeffers. He gives you the mental cues or gestures to keep you in the moment and keep you pumped up."

Thus reassured, López proceeded to smother the Royals for seven solid innings, and the Twins opened the 2024 season with a 4-1 victory over Kansas City at Kauffman Stadium.

The victory marked the fifth time in six tries the Twins have opened a season by beating the Royals, including all four Opening Days they have spent in this ballpark. And Lopez, who limited Kansas City to two hits over 5⅓ innings in his Twins debut last March, was almost as sparkling to open his second season.

"I was really impressed with our guy. Pablo did a wonderful job," manager Rocco Baldelli said. Did it remind him of last year's opener? "That start today reminded me of a lot of Pablo's starts," Baldelli said.

It didn't look like it at first. Garcia took a ball, then swung and missed a fastball. When López put his next pitch, an 83-mph sweeper, in almost the exact same spot, Garcia launched it.

"I was very anxious. There were a lot of emotions in that first at-bat," López said. "You always want to get the first one. You always want it to go smooth. It didn't."

But López shrugged off the mistake and gave up only three more hits and no walks over seven complete innings, retiring the final eight hitters he faced. No batter ever reached third base, in fact, after Garcia's blast.

Baldelli visited the mound after the first out of the seventh inning, mindful that his top starter hadn't pitched seven innings, or even six, during spring training.

"The plan wasn't for him to go seven innings, even if he was relatively efficient. But he was so efficient," Baldelli said of López's 84-pitch effort. "I wanted to hear what he had to say. He's very competitive, but I think he would also give me at least a hint of honesty out there. If he should be out there, he'll tell me. And he said, 'I feel great.' "

The Twins were better against Kansas City lefthander Cole Ragans, but only marginally. And they might have suffered a far greater loss than one game.

Royce Lewis, making his first Opening Day start, hit the sixth pitch of the season from Ragans into the fountain beyond the wall in left-center. Two innings later, he lined a two-out single into left field. When Carlos Correa followed with a double into the left-field corner, Manuel Margot scored from second base.

But Lewis, speeding up as he rounded second base in hopes of scoring, too, suddenly slowed down and limped into third. He was removed from the game with a right quad injury.

BOXSCORE: Twins 4, Kansas City 1

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The Twins added a pair of insurance runs against righthander Chris Stratton in the ninth inning, with Alex Kirilloff scoring on a wild pitch and Byron Buxton on an infield hit by Correa.

Until that point, though, the game evolved into a pitcher's duel reminiscent of López's 2-0 victory here one year ago. Ragans wound up with nine strikeouts, setting a Royals Opening Day record, while López whiffed seven, finishing his outing by freezing Hunter Renfroe with a third-strike sweeper at the bottom of the strike zone.

Brock Stewart pitched a scoreless eighth inning, giving up only a two-out single to Kyle Isbel, and Griffin Jax filled in for injured closer Jhoan Duran in the ninth, earning his first save of the season and sixth of his career.

"I was just smiling out there and having a great time," Lewis said, undaunted by injury. "And we got the won on top of that, so it's a great Opening Day."