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Angels sweep Brewers for 6th straight win

@RhettBollinger
April 11, 2019

ANAHEIM -- After a 1-6 start, the Angels have roared back above .500, winning six straight, including a three-game sweep of the Brewers, capped by a 4-2 victory on Wednesday night at Angel Stadium. The Angels used a four-run third inning to their advantage after loading the bases with nobody

ANAHEIM -- After a 1-6 start, the Angels have roared back above .500, winning six straight, including a three-game sweep of the Brewers, capped by a 4-2 victory on Wednesday night at Angel Stadium.

The Angels used a four-run third inning to their advantage after loading the bases with nobody out against right-hander Brandon Woodruff. Andrelton Simmons brought home a run with an RBI single, Justin Bour Justin Bour plated two more with a bloop single to left-center and Albert Pujols brought home another on a hard-hit, double-play grounder. Felix Peña allowed one unearned run over four innings before Jaime Barria made his first career relief appearance by allowing one run in 2 2/3 innings.

“It was a slow start on the road, and we came back and had a rough home opener. And since then, the offense has picked up,” Angels manager Brad Ausmus said. “We only scored four tonight, but the offensive picked [up]. It was quiet on the opening road trip. And the bullpen has been consistent all the way through.”

Here’s a look at three observations from the Angels’ first six-game winning streak since they won seven in a row from April 8-14, 2018.

1. The offense has awakened

The Angels averaged 2.5 runs per game through their first seven games. During their six-game winning streak, they’ve averaged 5.8. Mike Trout was responsible for much of that offense in their consecutive wins over the Rangers, but others off to slow starts have been swinging the bat much better.

Simmons struggled offensively early, but he homered on Monday, racked up three hits on Tuesday and sparked the four-run rally on Wednesday with his RBI single in the second. He’s an important part of the lineup, especially with Justin Upton (left turf toe) and Shohei Ohtani (Tommy John surgery) on the injured list.

Bour has also bounced back from a rough start. He connected on a key two-run homer on Monday, reached base safely three times on Tuesday and came through with a two-run single in the series finale.

"It's all the same in the book,” Bour said. “It's a process. The guys in front of me did a great job getting on. It's hard to single out one person. It's been a real group effort."

2. The bullpen has been a strength

The Angels believed they had a strong bullpen to open the year, with several power arms on the roster. But many of their relievers are inexperienced. The bullpen, though, has been even better than expected and held down the fort in the three-game sweep of the Brewers.

Barria, recalled from Triple-A Salt Lake on Wednesday, gave them much-needed length, as Pena has had trouble pitching deep into games. Barria had served as a starter in his previous 96 games in the Minors and Majors, but he adapted to the role well on Wednesday. He's not likely to remain a reliever and was optioned back to Salt Lake after the game. Still, he turned in a much-needed performance.

“He did a real good job mixing his pitches,” Ausmus said. “The slider was his best pitch tonight. A lot of times, his changeup is. But tonight, the slider was.”

Fellow relievers Hansel Robles, Luis García and Cam Bedrosian are off to strong starts, and Ty Buttrey has proved to be indispensable as the club's fireman in high-leverage situations. Closer Cody Allen has yet to allow a run in five appearances but was unavailable on Wednesday. Instead, Robles picked up the save. Angels relievers have combined for a 1.09 ERA during the six-game win streak and collectively have a 1.67 ERA this year -- the best mark in the Majors.

"Fun to catch. I'll say that much,” said catcher Kevan Smith, who was ejected in the eighth inning for arguing balls and strikes with umpire Phil Cuzzi. “Any guy that comes in, there's no doubt in your mind that they're going to get it done and do what you ask them to do.”

3. The defense has made big plays

Trout and Simmons both came up huge defensively on Monday. Trout robbed a homer from Christian Yelich, and Simmons made an incredible play on a ball hit up the middle with the bases loaded to an end an inning with Yelich set to come up at the plate.

On Wednesday, it was Brian Goodwin who came up with an important play. He robbed Yasmani Grandal of a potential homer in the second inning. It was Goodwin’s first start in center, as Trout is dealing with a strained right groin, but Goodwin timed the catch perfectly and took away what could’ve been Grandal’s third homer in two games.

"He definitely saved me in that situation," Pena said through a translator. "I was very happy. Everyone is playing as one."

Rhett Bollinger covers the Angels for MLB.com. He previously covered the Twins from 2011-18. Follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and Facebook.