DENVER -- With a boost from Zack Cozart at the top of the order, the Angels' bats came alive Wednesday, scoring four of their first five runs on the long ball and pairing the offensive onslaught with stellar starting pitching from Jaime Barria in an 8-0 blanking of the Rockies
DENVER -- With a boost from Zack Cozart at the top of the order, the Angels' bats came alive Wednesday, scoring four of their first five runs on the long ball and pairing the offensive onslaught with stellar starting pitching from Jaime Barria in an 8-0 blanking of the Rockies to earn a split of the two-game set.
Cozart, Michael Trout and Justin Upton accounted for the Halos' first four runs, going a collective 5-for-6 over the first three innings in the top three spots in the order, respectively. Cozart filled Ian Kinsler's leadoff role, as Kinsler relinquished his spot atop the lineup for the first time when he's been in a game this season. Cozart responded with a leadoff double and scored on Trout's RBI single to center to seize the early momentum.
"We were getting good pitches to hit and putting good swings on them," Cozart said. "I don't think there was any rhyme or reason why we hit better than [Tuesday]. Yesterday [Rockies starter Jon Gray] pitched well. Today we were getting better pitches to hit and taking advantage of it."
Cozart homered to left with one out in his next at-bat, followed by another Trout single and Upton's second round-tripper in as many days, a two-run liner to left that put the Angels ahead 4-0.
"There's no doubt that the field here is the best park to hit at, but we don't go into the game trying to do anything different because we're playing in Coors Field," Cozart said. "We're just trying to put good swings on the ball and whatever happens, happens. We'll take that same mentality back home and hopefully keep playing well."
Barria, 21, started off strong in his fourth big league start, retiring the Rockies in order in the first frame. He faced traffic every inning after that, scattering five hits, a walk and a hit batter over 5 1/3 innings while striking out seven.
"I was just executing my pitches, that was the key," Barria said. "I located the changeup low and away.
"I felt pretty good. Everybody on the team told me it's the same as every other game. Just more people in the stands, but it's the same game of baseball."
Barria kept the Rockies off balance with an effective changeup and an especially strong slider.
"You see it on video and it looks like a slider that plays the way the velo says it does," Rockies catcher Chris Iannetta said. "But then when you look to swing, it goes slower. So there's some deception there that was a little bit tough. I thought I was on a couple of those sliders, but I ended up being out front."
The Angels added an insurance run in the seventh on a leadoff shot from Rene Rivera, a half-inning after he took two foul tips to his hand. He got X-rays after the game, and aside from a big knot at the base of his thumb, he was fine.
"I think it was better, because I didn't try to do too much," Rivera said of hitting his home run after the hits to his hand. "I just tried to put the barrel on it. I think I put a good swing on it."
The Halos capped the scoring with two more in the eighth when Upton and Jose Pujols opened the inning with back-to-back doubles and Kinsler plated the second run with a single up the middle. Shohei Ohtani kept the rally going with his first big league pinch-hit, a single to center, before Rivera grounded into an inning-ending double play.
"It's good," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said of Ohtani proving his prowess in the pinch. "Shohei has to get acclimated to that part of when he's available and when he can pinch-hit. It's good to see him get comfortable."
HOUDINI ON THE HILL
Barria's biggest challenges came in the second and fourth innings. In the second, Barria had runners on first and third with one out and struck out Ian Desmond and Daniel Castro to escape danger. Two innings later, he gave up a leadoff single to Carlos Gonzalez and hit Trevor Story. Barria struck out Iannetta and Desmond and retired Castro on a fly to right to evade his last significant threat.
"We're very impressed with his poise," Scioscia said of Barria. "You saw it in the second inning making some pitches and then in the fourth inning making some good pitches to get out of it. That was impressive. It's not easy to pitch here."
When reliever Akeel Morris entered the game to pitch the bottom of the ninth, it marked the first time two natives of the U.S. Virgin Islands played in a game as teammates since right-handed pitcher Al McBean and catcher Elmo Plaskett were teammates with the Pirates from 1961-63. Morris' fellow Virgin Islander Jabari Blash, who was called up from Triple-A Salt Lake City on Sunday, started the game in right field.
HE SAID IT
"Barria's obviously not locked in yet. His last at-bat was a home run when he was 15, and he wasn't able to keep the momentum going." -- Scioscia, on Barria's 0-for-2 day
MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
Andrelton Simmons saw his 12-game hitting streak come to an end when his eighth-inning infield single to third was challenged and overturned. With a man on second and nobody out, Simmons hit a ball into the hole at short. Third baseman Nolan Arenado got to the ball, whirled and threw to first, apparently pulling Desmond off the bag. After viewing all relevant angles, it was determined that Desmond's foot was touching the base when he caught the ball. The call was overturned, Simmons was out at first, and after walking with the bases loaded in the top of the ninth, his season-long hitting streak ended a game shy of matching his career high.
During the streak, Simmons hit .438 (21-for-48) with six doubles, a triple, two homers, eight runs and 13 RBIs.
Right-hander Garrett Richards will be looking for his team-high fifth win Thursday as the Halos host the Twins to open a four-game series. The Twins will counter with Jose Berrios for the 7:07 p.m. PT tilt.
Owen Perkins is a contributor to MLB.com based in Denver.