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PIT@MIL: Marcum strikes out eight through seven

For Brewers starter Shaun Marcum, this week's Interleague road trip is a homecoming in more ways than one.

When he takes the hill on Thursday looking to help Milwaukee avoid a sweep against the Royals, he'll be doing so in his hometown. Marcum -- a Kansas City native -- attended Excelsior Springs High School. After that, he pitched as a freshman at the University of Missouri before transferring to Southwest Missouri State.

"It's always nice to come home and see friends, family, that I haven't seen in a while," Marcum said. "Especially my parents. It seems like they were at every game I ever played since I was 8 years old, and ever since I was in pro ball they can't make it. Other than that, it's a normal game."

Marcum, who will also start against his former team, Toronto, in another Interleague series next week, has spent this week sleeping at home, which is roughly 25-30 minutes from Kauffman Stadium. He didn't get to sleep in his own bed on Monday, though, because his sons had taken it over. Instead, he chose one of his son's bunks, so he didn't have to wake the family.

Once Thursday's game rolls around, Marcum said his focus will turn from friends and family in Kansas City to picking up a win for Milwaukee.

"It's about winning, and going out there and doing my job and giving us a chance to win," Marcum said. "That's our main focus. We have to get back to .500 and then get on a roll to get right back to the top of the division. When the game starts, it's about beating these guys."

The Royals will counter on Thursday with Luke Hochevar, who is winless in his last five starts. The right-hander did pitch well in a no-decision against Baltimore on May 17, but he surrendered four earned runs on nine hits in six innings his last time out against Pittsburgh.

Before that last start, Royals manager Ned Yost said he and the team count on Hochevar, and need him to turn things around.

"We constantly think about Luke Hochevar and what we need to do to get him to be consistently successful," Yost said. "We think that we need to get him to focus more on his core pitches. If he can do that, we think that's going to be the difference in him getting over the hump."

Brewers: Rodriguez, Axford continue bullpen struggles
One of the biggest differences between 2011 and 2012 for the Brewers has been the struggles of setup man Francisco Rodriguez and closer John Axford.

In the Royals' 2-1 victory to open the series on Tuesday, Rodriguez came on to start the eighth inning with the game tied at 1-1. He immediately surrendered a double to Alex Gordon. Two batters later, Billy Butler drove Gordon home for the winning run with a line drive single. On Wednesday night, Axford started the bottom of the ninth inning with the Brewers leading 3-1. But it didn't take long for Axford to surrender a game-tying, two-run triple. The Royals eventually won in extra innings.

Wednesday marked Axford's second blown save of the season after having just two all of last year. Meanwhile, Rodriguez's ERA has gone from 1.86 last year, which he spent with the Mets and Brewers, to 4.34 in 29 innings of work in his first full season with Milwaukee.

"I'm a little disappointed and embarrassed at the same time," Rodriguez said. "I've got my boys out there battling for eight innings, and I'm coming in, just one mistake, and we lost the game. It's not just one game that it happened. It's been the first two months of the season."

Royals: Yost to represent Royals, AL at All-Star Game
Both managers in Thursday's game will be representing their respective leagues at the All-Star Game. Royals skipper Ned Yost gets to do so in his own backyard, though.

Yost and head athletic trainer Nick Kenney were named to AL manager Ron Washington's staff on Wednesday for the July 10 Midsummer Classic at Kauffman Stadium. For Yost, it will be his fifth time as a coach at the All-Star Game, including in 2005, when he was Milwaukee's manager.

Along with considering it "always an honor" to be a part of the All-Star Game, Yost said he likes the atmosphere and competitiveness surrounding the event.

"My first All-Star experience I was shocked, because you have the best players from each team that show up and they just play this game, but the cool thing about it is when they walk in that locker room, they become a team," Yost said. "They come in with one focus, and it's like you've played with these guys forever,"

Worth noting
• After going 2-for-6 in Thursday's 4-3 loss to the Royals, Brewers left fielder Ryan Braun extended his Interleague hit streak to 18 games, the longest active streak in the Majors.

• Wednesday marked the first extra-inning win for the Royals in four tries this season. It was also their first walk-off victory since Sept. 16, 2011, against the Cubs.

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