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.

Los Angeles Times - - SPORTS - By Gary Klein gary.klein@latimes.com Twit­ter: @la­timesklein

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.

Alex Gallardo As­so­ci­ated Press

MIKE TROUT leaps but can­not catch a ball hit for a dou­ble by Seat­tle’s Nel­son Cruz as Kole Cal­houn runs for the ric­o­chet.

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