ANAHEIM, Calif. — Los Angeles Angels’ Garrett Richards had a career performance on the mound Sunday afternoon against the Astros, only further highlighting what has been a career season. By all accounts, Richards and his 10-2 record should be headed to Minnesota for the 2014 All-Star Game.
He looked every bit the part of an All-Star in Sunday’s 6-1 win over Houston. Richards became the first Angel in two seasons to win 10 games before the All-Star break, giving up only one earned run on six scattered hits and striking out a career-high 11 over 7.1 innings. He was dominant against the heart of the order, striking out the Nos. 3 and 4 hitters three times each and had impeccable control over all four pitches.
"He just went after those guys with his best stuff, pounding the zone," said Angels manager Mike Scioscia. "Garrett just pitched a strong game."
Yet when Richards returned to his locker, he received the news that he is not yet an all-star. Neither was infielder Erick Aybar, another player that the team thought was a sure-thing. Outfielder Mike Trout was the only Angel to be named to the 2014 All-Star team.
Richards still has a chance, however, as part of the AL Final Vote, but the competition is stiff. He won’t get to make another start before the Final Vote ends, but another one like he had Sunday and his exclusion may be even more confounding because starts like that are quickly becoming routine.
"We expect Garrett to go after guys with his best stuff time in and time out and we’re seeing that," Scioscia said. "There was one start in Oakland that didn’t work out but every other start did."
"It’s the same thing I’ve been doing all year: getting ahead of hitters with the fastball and breaking ball, putting guys ahead with two strikes and just attacking guys," Richards said. "I threw quality strikes and gave us a chance to win."
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The Angels completed the four-game sweep of the Astros to go on their first 10-game home winning streak since 1996. The 10 wins have nearly all been in a similar manor, with quality pitching and big offensive innings. Kole Calhoun spurred much of the offense against Houston with a a huge series, going 6-for-10 with four runs and striking out only once in the three games he appeared in. Calhoun went 3-for-3 with a walk and a home run in the leadoff spot Sunday for his fourth three-hit game of the season.
He leads the league with 20 runs in 16 games since June 20 and with a .402 average over the last month.
"It’s just a comfort zone," Scioscia said. "He started off well earlier in the year but when you miss six or seven weeks like Kole did, that’s a lot of time. Sometimes it take a little time to find that swing again… He did and he’s been very, very productive."
Only seven more games are left until the Halos hit the halfway point of the 2014 campaign, and while they’re only 3.5 games back from the A’s, neither team is showing signs of a slowdown. At 51-36, they’re in a good position, but like any manager would, Scioscia worries about how to better that position.
"I have concerns driving home, I’ll wake up in the morning thinking about the concerns," he said. "I don’t think there’s ever a day where a manager goes to sleep thinking about his starting rotation or his bullpen and (doesn’t) wake up thinking about his starting rotation or his bullpen.
"I’ll be putting a lot of effort into thinking about that one the way home."