MILWAUKEE -- If there has been one constant from this nine-game road trip that's now almost over, it's the starting pitching. For six out of seven contests, Angels starters have been getting deep into games, keeping opposing teams off the board, letting Mike Scioscia line up his bullpen and putting less pressure on an offense that's shorthanded to begin with.
That triggers the natural question: Where has this been all year?
It's now, as the regular season's final month approaches, that the Angels -- 61-72 and 16 1/2 games out of first place, despite winning six of the first seven games in this road trip -- are finally starting to benefit from the consistency of Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson, Jason Vargas and Garrett Richards.
"It breathes some hope into our organization when these guys that we're counting on are back in there and pitching well," Scioscia said after a Weaver-led 5-0 win over the Brewers at Miller Park on Friday night. "As frustrating and disappointing as this year has been up to this point, I think that if you look at how we've pitched in this last week -- which is, I think, indicative of the talent that's in our rotation that maybe hasn't been there all year -- that gives us a lot of hope."
The Angels -- 11 games under .500 for the first time since Aug. 12 -- have hurled 22 consecutive scoreless innings dating back to the fifth inning at Tropicana Field on Wednesday. On this trip, which concludes Sunday, the pitching staff has posted a 1.60 ERA. Dating back to Aug. 20, the starters have combined to post a 1.91 ERA, with the latest effort being six gritty, scoreless innings from their ace.
It makes you wonder where the Angels would be if Weaver and Vargas -- a combined 4-0 with a 0.65 ERA on this trip -- hadn't missed a combined 18 or so starts due to fluky injuries.
"There's been some ups and downs as far as everything goes," said Weaver, now 9-7 with a 3.30 ERA on the year. "We've had some times when the pitching staff has been really consistent and other times when it's kind of been sporadic. We've had a lot of injuries as far as the staff goes, with guys trying to battle back, get back to normal -- myself included. It's been a rough patch, but we're throwing the ball well right now and getting out there and getting some wins. It's nice to see."
Weaver, making his first career appearance against the Brewers, needed 104 pitches to get through six innings, but still kept Milwaukee (59-75) off the board while scattering three hits and three walks. The 30-year-old right-hander put at least two runners on in the third, fourth and sixth, but escaped unscathed and, as Scioscia said, "showed how creative he can get."
"I've seen him a lot better, but he was on," Brewers manager and former Angels coach Ron Roenicke said. "The guy knows how to pitch. He knows how to get hitters out. He knows how to change speeds. He's one of the best competitors that I've seen out on the mound."
The Angels are making their first trip to Miller Park since 2007, when they used the facility to play the Indians after games in Cleveland were snowed out. The last time they played the Brewers in Milwaukee was 2002, and the last time they played the Brewers at home was in 2010.
Kole Calhoun, batting cleanup with Josh Hamilton still nursing a sore left shoulder, got the Halos on the board in the fourth with a solo homer to right field off Wily Peralta, his fifth since being called up July 28. And the Angels pulled away in the seventh, getting a three-run double from Grant Green and an RBI single from J.B. Shuck two batters later.
In a matter of months, the Angels' lineup has gone from a potential juggernaut brimming with star power to a young group composed of players still trying to make an imprint in the big leagues and lock up roles for next season, with guys like Shuck, Green, Calhoun and Luis Jimenez.
These days, they're enjoying the ride.
"It's a lot easier when you have a little winning streak going on," Calhoun said. "Everything kind of loosens up when you're winning games. It's kind of tight, you want to get out of it and you want to win, you want to win so bad that it gets tight. So yeah, we've talked about it as a team -- going out, playing loose, playing free. That's starting to show right now, and it makes it a lot of fun. It's a good clubhouse to be in. We're playing good baseball and just have to keep growing like that."
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.