ATLANTA -- It had been quite some time since the Angels got out to an early cushion and were able to breathe a little bit.
But they did just that in the series finale against the Braves on Sunday afternoon, as the Halos scored five runs in the first inning and cruised to a 9-1 win at Truist Park. It marked the first time the Angels had a lead of at least four runs in the first three innings of a game since May 14 against the A's.
They also matched a season high with their six hits in the first inning and they scored five runs in a frame for the first time since June 5 in Philadelphia. It also marked the first time the Angels had a lead in 46 innings and it helped them pick up their first road win over a team with a winning record since April 20 in Houston.
"Jumping out early, we've seen that against us several times lately,” interim manager Phil Nevin said. “It was just nice to see us jump out of the gate like that. They were good quality at-bats. We jumped on some pitches we saw early in the zone and didn't miss them against a good pitcher.”
Taylor Ward proved to be the spark with a one-out homer in the first off Braves right-hander Ian Anderson. It started a streak of five straight hits for the Angels, including RBI singles from Max Stassi and Jo Adell. Brandon Marsh plated a run on an RBI groundout, while Andrew Velazquez reached on an RBI infield single.
It was the kind of offensive output the Angels had been searching for over the last several weeks, as they finally put together a big inning, and Ward said he’s hopeful it’ll create some momentum going forward. The Halos had scored a combined seven runs over their past five games.
"It felt great,” said Ward, who left the game in the eighth inning with leg cramps but is expected to be in the lineup for Monday’s series opener against the Royals at Kauffman Stadium. “Hopefully we can keep this rolling into tomorrow. It was very enjoyable to get out to a lead like that."
The early lead helped lefty Reid Detmers, as he made sure it would hold by throwing five scoreless innings with six strikeouts. He scattered three hits and two walks, and he now has a 3.84 ERA in 15 starts this year, including a 1.06 ERA with 19 strikeouts in 17 innings over his past three outings after a brief stint at Triple-A Salt Lake.
“In my mind, it was still 0-0, because I don’t want to give up any runs. But it’s obviously nice to pitch with a lead,” Detmers said. “But I’ve been feeling good. I made a couple tweaks a few weeks ago and ever since then I’ve felt back to normal. A few small tweaks changed a whole lot.”
Detmers has a 2.88 ERA over his past seven starts, but the Angels had lost in each of his previous six outings. It marked the first time the Halos won in a start by Detmers since his no-hitter against the Rays on May 10. It was also the club’s first win without Shohei Ohtani on the mound since June 27.
“It helps Reid to go out there and pitch with some comfort,” Nevin said of the early lead. “It gave him a cushion to relax and attack their hitters. They have a great lineup, but he's throwing the ball well and I loved the way the ball was coming out today."
Detmers said he was also pleased to see the offense finally break out because he knows how hard the hitters have been working to get things going.
"It's just a confidence-booster,” Detmers said. “Once we scored those five, we scored runs the rest of the game. It just kind of loosened us up and got us going."
The Angels added three runs in the fourth -- keyed by a leadoff walk from Ohtani and a single from Ward. Luis Rengifo singled to right field to score both Ohtani and Ward, as Ronald Acuña Jr. was charged with a throwing error on the play as he tried to get Ward at third.
Rengifo advanced all the way to third on the error and scored on a sacrifice fly from Stassi. Stassi later added an RBI triple in the seventh and went 3-for-4 with three RBIs, finishing a homer shy of the cycle.
“We were able to put the ball in play and make things happen and be aggressive on the bases.” Nevin said. “I liked a lot of things today."