Left-hander Andrew Heaney delivered his fourth consecutive superb start since being recalled from triple-A in late June, and Chris Iannetta (two-run homer) and David Freese (two-run double) highlighted a game-breaking six-run rally in the sixth.
The Angels, who struggled to score runs for the first three months of the season, were five games behind the Houston Astros when they departed for a nine-game trip to Texas, Colorado on Seattle on July 2.
But despite being shut out for the fifth time this season Saturday night, they outscored the three teams, 65-30, while going 7-2 on the trip. They racked up 107 hits, 37 of them for extra bases -- including 16 homers -- and scored six runs or more in six of the games.
The Astros, meanwhile, lost six in a row leading up to the All-Star break, allowing the Angels to take a half-game lead on Sunday. On only one other day this season -- April 17 -- have the Angels been alone in first place in the division.
“When you’re four or five games back, you want to make sure you’re within striking distance, and we did that for a long time,” Iannetta said. “Now, we’ve won a bunch of games, we’re in first place, and we’ll see how it plays out.”
It will also be interesting to see how the Angels rotation plays out when Jered Weaver (left-hip inflammation) is ready to come off the disabled list after the break.
Heaney replaced Weaver and appears to have strong-armed his way into a permanent spot. The left-hander gave up five hits, struck out six and walked one in seven scoreless innings Sunday to improve to 3-0 with a 1.32 earned-run average, striking out 23 and walking four in 27 1/3 innings.
Garrett Richards is 9-6 with a 3.53 ERA and has the best pure stuff on the staff. Hector Santiago is 6-4 with a 2.33 ERA, third-best in the league, and was named to the All-Star team Sunday, and C.J. Wilson (7-7, 3.83) is a rotation mainstay.
Matt Shoemaker is 4-7 with a 4.85 ERA, and though he has pitched better in recent weeks, he entered Sunday’s game in the ninth inning, which might be an indication that he’s headed for the bullpen.