Lopez returns to mound for first time since near-perfect outing

Garver passed baseball’s concussion protocol but was not in the lineup Thursday night when the Twins opened a four-game series against the Royals in Kansas City. Manager Paul Molitor said Garver was making progress but isn’t expected to play Friday night when the series continues at Kauffman Stadium.

“We’re hoping to protect him in the short term just because of the blow that he took,” Molitor said. “We’ll try to get him in a little better place before we put him back in there. But so far, so good.”

The team is taking a cautious approach with Garver’s recovery because concussion symptoms sometimes don’t appear for a day or two after the incident. He also took a blow to the head in August, when he was hit in the head on Manny Machado’s backswing.

“He’s got history, which is also a part of the equation,” Molitor said. “We’ll watch it closely.”

The Twins fell to 10-29 on the road since June 16 with a 6-4 loss Thursday night. They’ve won one road series during that stretch.

They’ll try to even the series Friday behind right-hander Jose Berrios (11-11, 3.83 ERA), who faces the Royals for a second straight start. He held Kansas City to a run and struck out five over six innings in that outing Saturday, but took the loss and is 0-3 over his last three starts.

The Royals’ starting pitcher in that Saturday game was Jorge Lopez (2-4, 3.72), who will face Berrios and the Twins again Friday.

The right-hander flirted with history in that outing, becoming the first Royals pitcher to carry a perfect game into the ninth inning. Max Kepler spoiled Lopez’s bid for perfection with a walk to lead off the ninth and Robbie Grossman followed with a base hit to center, breaking up the no-hitter.

“It’s a dream come true,” said Lopez, who still got the win. “I feel like we did everything offensively and defensively. … I think my heart accelerated a little but it was just hard to finish. But it was good.”

Berrios, who like Lopez is a native of Puerto Rico and played with him in the World Baseball Classic, said he enjoyed watching his countryman in his bid for history.

“Once I finished my six innings, it was nice to see,” Berrios said. “It was fun to watch him, what he’s doing out there, and it’s a victory for Puerto Rico.”

The Royals acquired Lopez from the Brewers in exchange for third baseman Mike Moustakas ahead of the trade deadline. Lopez went 0-3 with a 7.90 through his first three starts for the Royals but has allowed one run in each of his last two starts with 12 strikeouts in 15 innings.

“He threw the ball really well tonight, but he threw the ball just as well in his last start,” Royals manager Ned Yost said after his near no-hitter. “I don’t really see much different except we made some plays and he didn’t give up a hit until the ninth inning. … He wasn’t getting the swings and misses, which is good, because that helps his pitch economy stay down. You’re getting three- and four-pitch decisions, and it puts you in a position to go out in the ninth inning under 100 pitches.”

That game was Lopez’s first career start against the Twins.

Berrios is 2-2 with a 4.53 ERA in eight career starts against Kansas City, and he is 2-1 with a 1.80 ERA in three starts against the Royals this season.