MILWAUKEE -- Jonathan Lucroy and Chris Carter hit back-to-back home runs in the Brewers' go-ahead fifth inning to power a long-awaited victory for right-hander Junior Guerra, who gave new meaning to the term journeyman in a 5-4 win over the Angels at Miller Park on Tuesday night.
Carter logged three RBIs in his second multi-homer game in three days, and the Brewers secured their first three-game winning streak of the season for the 31-year-old Guerra, whose long road to this moment included pitching stints in distant baseball outposts like Italy in Spain. Called up from the Minors to fill a hole in Milwaukee's slumping starting rotation, he fell into a four-run deficit after three innings but settled in to deliver three more scoreless frames before yielding to relievers Michael Blazek, Tyler Thornburg and Jeremy Jeffress.
"We gave [Guerra] a little shower," said Carter, referring to the brew typically poured over a player following a big league first. "We had a little fun with him."
Mike Trout made it 4-0 with a two-run single in the third inning before Milwaukee began slugging its way back. Carter put the Brewers on the board against Angels starter Nick Tropeano with a two-run home run in the bottom of the third. In the decisive fifth, Carter followed Lucroy's tying two-run homer with a go-ahead solo shot.
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Opportunity wasted: The Angels loaded the bases with none out against Blazek, trailing by a run and seemingly poised to re-take the lead. But Cliff Pennington hit a flair into the glove of second baseman Yadiel Rivera. The next batter, Escobar, grounded into an inning-ending 6-4-3 double play. The Angels have grounded into a Major League-leading 31 double plays this season.
"[Pitching coach Derek Johnson] came out there and said, 'You're going to get the job done. You're going to get out of it,'" Blazek said. "It's been like that this season a little bit. When runners get on, I kind of lock in."
Said Angels manager Mike Scioscia: "You keep playing ball. You can look back and look at a lot of things in that game. It's a great position to be in. [Blazek] made a pitch and got out of it. That happens. We didn't lose this game in the batter's box tonight. We gave them a chance to set it up with some of their arms, their bullpen did a great job. Early on we had a 4-0 lead, and it evaporated very quickly." More >
Back in the bigs: Merely stepping on the mound and throwing a 96-mph first pitch marked a milestone for Guerra, who made his first Major League start at 31 years, 108 days old. He was out of affiliated baseball from 2009-14 after a suspension for a failed performance-enhancing drugs test, pitching everywhere from Venezuela to Italy to Spain to Wichita, Kan., before making it to the Majors as a White Sox reliever last season. Guerra's "out" pitch is not the power fastball, but a split-fingered offspeed pitch he used to strike out Angels leadoff man Escobar.
"It's a long road, but I just have to be thankful," Guerra said. "I have to thank God that I'm here. Now I have to get ready for my next start and get ready to do it again." More >
Big man, big flies: Carter, nontendered by Houston last year after batting .199, is on a 56-homer pace after signing with the Brewers for $2.5 million. Most of those blasts have been of the no-doubt variety, including both on Tuesday night. Carter's third-inning home run left his bat at 111 mph and traveled 439 feet to center field, according to Statcast™. His fifth-inning homer left the bat at 109 mph and traveled 431 feet to left, a high-towering shot thanks to a 37-degree launch angle.
"I got a little bit more of that one than the first one," Carter said. "We've been getting the big hits in situations where we've needed them, and it's helping us win games." More >
Changing it up: Tropeano essentially abandoned his fastball in the two plate appearances that decided the game. He attacked Lucroy with only sliders and changeups, leaving a 1-2 changeup up and watching it sail off the facing of the second deck in the fifth. To the next batter, Carter, who burned him with a first-pitch fastball in the third, Tropeano hung a 1-0 slider and watched the Brewers take the lead. Tropeano gave up a combined 1,272 feet on home runs, as projected by Statcast™, and also issued five walks in five innings.
"My command was a little off today, and obviously the long ball hurt me," Tropeano said. "I left a couple of pitches up. I felt pretty good with my fastball; my offspeed was just a little up in the zone."
"He lost the ball. It's tough. It's a weird visual you have here. You have a scoreboard, it's bright, and our sign. It's almost smokey in here. I think he thought the right fielder caught it." -- Scioscia, on Albert Pujols not running hard all the way on his first-inning RBI off the right-field fence and getting thrown out at second base
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In 2014, the year Carter hit a career-high 37 home runs for Houston, he hit his ninth home run on June 3 in his 51st game. This year, he hit No. 9 on May 3 in his 25th game. Carter, formerly of the A's and Astros, has 18 home runs in 61 career games against the Angels.
The Angels snapped their 11-game homer streak on Tuesday, which was the longest in the Major Leagues this season. They homered just 13 times through their first 19 games and connected on 11 home runs in their previous seven contests.
Angels: Lefty Hector Santiago takes the ball for Wednesday's series finale at Miller Park, with game time set for 10:40 a.m. PT. Santiago, who will face the Brewers for the first time in his career, has given up four earned runs or fewer in each of his first five starts this season.
Brewers: Right-handed changeup specialist Zach Davies heads to the mound Wednesday at 12:40 p.m. CT, seeking his first win of the season. Opponents are hitting .411 (23-for-56) off Davies through his first three starts of 2016, none of them quality starts.
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