Hunter Dozier heating up as Royals visit Cubs

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Two rebuilding teams looking toward next season meet Friday when the Kansas City Royals visit Wrigley Field for the start of a three-game series against the Chicago Cubs.

Both teams have reason to be encouraged after playing well against contending teams this week.

Kansas City took three of four against the Houston Astros while the Cubs won two of three against the Cincinnati Reds.

The Royals are battling the Minnesota Twins for last in the American League Central, but Kansas City came just short of completing a four-game sweep against the AL West-leading Astros.

Kansas City won the first three games before falling 6-3 in 10 innings on Thursday. Shortstop Nicky Lopez went 6-for-13 with a home run, two RBIs and five stolen bases during the series.

The Royals also received a spark from Hunter Dozier, who struggled mightily in the first half of the season.

The versatile 29-year-old has hit safely in 12 of his past 13 games, batting .318 (14-for-44) with two homers and five RBIs in that span.

“He’s shortened up his movement, overall, his head movement,” Royals manager Mike Matheny said. “I think he’s seeing better. You’re seeing better takes, seeing less swing and miss, and all of that is leading to the direction that’s allowing him to find the barrel.”

Royals catcher Salvador Perez drove in a run in the Thursday loss, giving him 78 RBIs for the season, two shy of his single-season high, which he set in 2017 and matched in 2018.

Chicago has won two in row but owns just four victories in the past 19 games. Most of that skid occurred since the Cubs traded away stars Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, Javier Baez and Craig Kimbrel.

The Cubs’ scheduled Friday starter, Zach Davies (6-9, 5.00 ERA), will look to build on an encouraging outing against the Miami Marlins on Saturday.

The 28-year-old right-hander received a no-decision after allowing three runs, all unearned, on four hits over six innings. He struck out seven while walking one.

The outing marked a step forward for Davies, who surrendered a total of 18 runs in his previous three starts covering 12 innings.

Davies’ only career appearance against Kansas City came in 2018 as a member of the Milwaukee Brewers, when he pitched six innings of two-run ball for a win.

The Royals will counter with right-hander Brad Keller (7-12, 5.62 ERA), who lost his third straight start on Saturday, allowing four runs (two earned) over 6 2/3 innings against the St. Louis Cardinals.

The 26-year-old righty has pitched into the seventh inning in five of his past seven starts and is 1-4 with a 3.61 ERA over that span.

Keller owns a 1-1 record and 3.27 ERA in two career starts against the Cubs.

The Cubs are giving several newcomers a chance to audition for next year’s roster, including outfielder Michael Hermosillo.

The 26-year-old made his season debut on Tuesday and homered Wednesday in Chicago’s 7-1 win over Cincinnati.

Hermosillo was recalled from Triple-A after hitting .306 with 10 home runs and 29 RBI in 43 games for the Iowa Cubs.

“He had a nice spring for us,” manager David Ross. “There were some moments early on where his name was talked about, and he had an injury pop up down there. But he’s been great. I’m happy he’s here and going to get an opportunity to contribute.”

–Field Level Media

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