After yet another disappointing season for the 28-year-old Jorge Lopez in 2021, many Baltimore Orioles fans considered him as an afterthought and believed that he may not make the team in the 2022 season. However, Brandon Hyde surprised fans by using Lopez as the closer in the Orioles’ home opener and first win of the season against the Milwaukee Brewers.
Since then, he has been the anchor of a much-improved bullpen and was the Orioles’ lone All-Star selection. After being picked up off waivers from the Royals during the 2020 season, he struggled as a starter to the tune of a 6.34 ERA in 38.1 innings pitched that season and a 6.07 ERA in 121.2 innings in 2021. Lopez’s struggles mostly came after one time through the opponents’ batting order which made him a candidate to improve with a shift into the bullpen.
Orioles closer Jorge López makes ASG debut
While most Orioles fans are aware of the success that Lopez has had this season, he introduced himself to a national audience Tuesday night by forcing Kyle Schwarber and Jake Cronenworth to ground out before being replaced by Tigers relief pitcher Gregory Soto to finish the seventh. The American League ultimately won the game 3-2 following strong pitching from everyone after Shane McClanahan allowed two runs in the first inning. This win was the eighth consecutive All-Star Game win for the American League and the fifth consecutive that the Orioles only had one representative.
While it was a short and unremarkable outing for Lopez, it gave Orioles fans something to cheer about on a night where there was not much else going for a team that has surprised many nationally and locally. As a player, Lopez has been magnificent this season as the O’s closer but it is even more impressive considering the challenges he has faced off the field. Jorge’s son, Mikael, has battled a series of chronic illnesses throughout his childhood which has forced him to spend time in patients’ rooms of children’s hospitals for most of his nine years.
Earlier this season, Mikael was cleared to leave the hospital and was able to watch his father close out games on back-to-back nights against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park. The second of those appearances occurred on Mikael’s ninth birthday and was a four-out save in which Jorge allowed one unearned run to score in a 4-2 win for the Orioles.
This story, along with Jorge’s improbable turnaround from one of the worst pitchers in the league a year ago to a lockdown closer for a team sitting at .500 makes Lopez an extremely easy player to root for and hopefully one who will continue to build on his first half success to finish the season and in seasons to come for the Orioles.