Strong sweep boosts struggling Royals

MILWAUKEE — Despite the issues that have plagued the Royals this season — including a series loss to the Orioles over the weekend that dropped them to 37-55 entering the series against the Brewers — there’s something about playing Milwaukee this season that’s seemingly made everything go right.

Kansas City got contributions from just about everyone during Wednesday’s 6-3 win over the Brewers at American Family Field, and it felt like something of a buildup of recent success from some key pieces.

Brad Keller has looked like a different pitcher in July, allowing just three earned runs in 14 innings in his first two starts of the month.

Keller found himself in a bit more trouble in the series finale, when he allowed three runs on three hits and one walk in the fifth, but he managed to work through 6 2/3 innings, earning the win and producing his third consecutive quality start after going without one in June.

“I feel like one thing that we really need to start rolling is our starting rotation,” Keller said. “Once Mike [Minor] went out there, set the tone [with a win on Tuesday], I just tried to follow suit and do the same thing.”

Hunter Dozier continued his hot streak since the All-Star break, going 2-for-4. Both of his hits were RBI singles, the first bringing in Andrew Benintendi with two outs in the fourth; the second, a one-out knock to even the score at 3 in the sixth. Dozier is hitting .500 (9-for-18) over the past five games after slashing .174/.242/.344 in the first half.

Dozier’s day combined with another big hit from Jorge Soler, who went deep for the second consecutive game, this time on a 438-foot shot to left off Brewers reliever Angel Perdomo. It was Soler’s third home run in his past seven games, a welcome power surge after going without a long ball in the previous 23 games.

“There’s a reason why Soler led the league in home runs two years ago, and there’s a reason why Dozier was fortunate enough to get a great contract this offseason, which was well-deserved,” shortstop Nicky Lopez said. “We know that it’s in there, and baseball sometimes can slap you right in the face, but it’s just how you answer. They’ve been putting in the work, day in and day out, and it was great to see it show.

“I know they work hard, they go at it the right way and go about their business the right way, and I’m their biggest fan.”

The only blemish on the day came when Milwaukee took a 3-2 lead after scoring three runs in the bottom of the fifth off Keller, but Kansas City came roaring back to score three in the ensuing frame. Lopez — who entered the series finale hitting .333 with a .422 on-base percentage since June 12 — finished off the rally with a bases-loaded, two-out, two-run double to the right-field corner that ultimately proved the difference in the game.

A trying season has sunk the Royals (39-55) to last in the American League Central. They’re ahead of only the Rangers and the Orioles in the AL standings, but the performances that helped them sweep the season series against the Brewers at least provide some hope for a better second half.

“Doesn’t matter what the record says, where you are in the standings — you go out and you compete,” Kansas City manager Mike Matheny said. “When you can compete against some of the best when they’re throwing out their best, it says a lot about yourself as a team. This is a good team, they’ve been playing well and, fortunately, we were able to get the kind of starts and the timely hitting that we needed.”