Strike force: Angels win as Richards keeps pitches in zone, Mariners off balance.
The starter’s strong pitching along with solid defense from David Freese lead Angels past Mariners.
It’s been several weeks since Garrett Richards lasted less than an inning in a loss to the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium.
It was the worst outing of his young career and it continues to fade as a distant memory.
On Saturday, Richards logged another impressive performance in the Angels’ 4-2 victory over the Seattle Mariners at Angel Stadium.
“Filled up the zone,” Richards said. “Got ahead of guys.”
Richards gave up two runs and seven hits in 72⁄3 innings, dominating the Mariners with first-pitch strikes that kept him in control.
“Garrett was in the zone all day,” Angels Manager Mike Scioscia said.
Kole Calhoun’s two-run home run, Johnny Giavotella’s basesloaded single and third baseman David Freese’s outstanding defense helped Richards improve his record to 8-5 as the Angels once again moved over .500 at 38-37.
Richards, who underwent season-ending knee surgery in August 2014 and began the season on the disabled list, has given up three runs or fewer in 12 of his 14 starts.
But Scioscia said after the June 6 outing at New York that the number of pitches Richards was throwing behind in the count were catching up to him.
In four starts since giving up six runs in two-thirds of an inning against the Yankees, he is 3-1 with a 2.28 earned-run average.
“As far as the outing in New York, I don’t really remember that,” Richards said.
Before Saturday’s game, Scioscia praised Richards for his ability to pitch deep into games.
“Even in some games where Garrett hasn’t maybe been quite as sharp, he’s been keeping us in games,” Scioscia said. “And when he’s on, his stuff is every bit as electric as it was last year.”
Richards and catcher Carlos Perez said the key to Richards’ 94pitch outing Saturday was his ability to throw first-pitch strikes.
“You go out and do that,” Richards said, “it’s hard not to be successful.”
Richards also displayed his mettle in several situations against the Mariners.
Nelson Cruz led off the second inning with a double off the wall in right-center field, but Richards struck out Kyle Seager, Mark Trumbo and Brad Miller.
In the fifth, Seager led off with a single before Richards struck out Trumbo. Seager moved into scoring position on a wild pitch, but Richards got Miller to line out to Freese, who tagged out Seager to end the threat.
In the sixth, Richards gave up consecutive one-out singles to Mike Zunino and Logan Morrison, and Zunino scored from third on a wild pitch to pull the Mariners to within a run. But Freese saved a run with a diving backhand stop that held Seth Smith to an infield single, and Richards got Robinson Cano to hit into a double play.
“He made some big-time plays,” Richards said of Freese. “He’s kind of all over the place with the shift. It seemed like he covered the whole left side.”
Richards also pitched out of a jam in the seventh after Trumbo walked and Miller singled with two out to put runners at first and third. Richards struck out Dustin Ackley to preserve the lead.
MIKE TROUT leaps but cannot catch a ball hit for a double by Seattle’s Nelson Cruz as Kole Calhoun runs for the ricochet.