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Home runs help Angels beat Tigers 6-0, get back to even

The Angels arrived back at .500 on Wednesday, a perfectly adequate spot for a so-so team that has been unable to avoid being average much of this season.

At 58-58, they are down to 46 games to go in a year that appears destined to be remembered mostly for Shohei Ohtani’s hello and Mike Scioscia’s goodbye.

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But at least a 6-0 thumping of the Detroit Tigers sent them into a day off feeling better about their apparent fate than they did just a few days ago.

The Angels returned home this week having lost six of seven games to fall a season-worst three games below .500.

They were without their best hitter (Mike Trout) and best pitcher (Tyler Skaggs) because of injuries.

They had recently traded away two of their top defensive players and also were minus Luis Valbuena, who ran out of time because the Angels ran out of patience.

Reports of Scioscia’s impending departure swirled and the general direction of the franchise appeared to be teetering.

Approaching a possible crash landing, the Angels needed an inviting, soft spot on which to touch down and baseball provided them one: the Tigers, who’ve won once this month and not at all during their just completed trip.

In sweeping this three-game set, the Angels batted .316 and hit seven home runs, winning by a total margin of 23-7.

“It’s always good to win, especially to sweep,” starting pitcher Jaime Barria (7-7) said through an interpreter. “My teammates are more upbeat. It’s a way better atmosphere.”

The Angels trailed for one inning Monday, for half an inning Tuesday and not for a single pitch Wednesday.

Kole Calhoun saw to that by homering to lead off the bottom of the first inning, the ball landing 404 feet from the plate and poking the batter’s eye in center field.

After spending two months being one of the worst hitters in baseball, Calhoun today is one of the game’s most resurgent.

He has 14 home runs since coming off the disabled list June 18 and no one in the American League has more.

Think about this: Calhoun was a .145 hitter with one home run May 31. After Wednesday, he had more home runs for the season than Yasiel Puig, Carlos Correa and Andrew McCutchen.

Given an instant lead, Barria shut out the Tigers into the sixth inning, pitching his finest game in more than eight weeks.

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The rookie limited Detroit to four singles and a double while striking out five to win for only the second time since June 1.

“Right now, it’s the normal progression of a young pitcher finding his way,” Scioscia said before the game. “He’s going to be fine.”

Barria was against the Tigers — plus some. On a day when the game-time temperature was 94 degrees, he gave his team 17 outs on 92 pitches before Taylor Cole, Hansel Robles and Noe Ramirez completed the shutout.

During one of his recent starts, Barria admitted to struggling because of excessive sweat, the condition impacting his ability to grip the ball.

He had no such problems this time, holding the Detroit lineup in his grasp. Barria credited more generous use of the rosin bag.

The three pitchers who followed retired all 10 batters they faced, Cole, a 28-year-old rookie, lowering his earned-run average to 1.59 with 1 1/3 innings.

“Taylor’s really an interesting guy,” Scioscia said. “He’s multidimensional.”

The Angels also received a home run from Justin Upton for the second consecutive game.

This came after a stretch during which he had three hits and 12 strikeouts in 26 at-bats, one of which ended with Upton slamming his bat into the ground and breaking the shattered remains in half over his knee.

On Wednesday, the lasting image was Upton finishing his home run trot by touching the plate with his right foot and hugging Calhoun.

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