It’s tempting, but don’t get too distracted over the Angels’ offensive explosion Tuesday night in Detroit. The most important line belonged to rookie pitcher Garrett Richards.
Yes, they hit five home runs, collected a season-high 18 hits and crushed the Tigers 13-0 on a sweltering evening at Comerica Park. But what they needed more than all those runs was a reliable performance from Richards.
The last time we saw Richards, he was on a slide back to the minors after giving up 12 earned runs in 8 2/3 innings over his previous two starts. And given the struggles of the bullpen on the current road trip, a deep, solid start was desperately needed.
Mission accomplished. Richards didn’t give up a hit until the fourth inning and allowed just three hits in seven innings, combining with David Carpenter to hand the Tigers their first shutout of the season and first in 158 games.
Richards kept the ball down, mixed speeds and challenged hitters, but he also walked four batters, including two leadoff walks. With a 7-0 lead after an inning and a half, it was a lapse he could afford.
“It was one of those special nights where all my stuff was working,” Richards, who improved to 3-1, told FOX Sports West afterward.
His job was made easier by an offense that knocked Tigers starter Jacob Turner out of the game after two innings. In fact, it was a game with some impressive milestones:
Mike Trout: The rookie had four hits to improve his American League-leading batting average to .355. He became the first Angels rookie with four four-hit games in a season and got his 100th hit in his 69th game, making him the third fastest Angel to reach that mark behind Darin Erstad (60 games) and Rod Carew (63). Trout also hit a second-inning home run that traveled 442 feet to right-center, making it the second-longest opposite-field homer in the majors this season behind a 445-foot shot by Miguel Cabrera.
Mark Trumbo: Moved from No. 5 in the batting order to the cleanup spot, most likely for good, Trumbo hit his 26th home run and had three RBIs, giving him 65 this season. He has six home runs in his past eight games and started the day with an AL-best .625 slugging average. He leads the league with seven home runs this month.
Albert Pujols: With his slow start long in the past, Pujols was 3 for 4, scored three runs and drove in two. He also knocked his 16th homer, giving him 461 in his career to tie Atlanta’s Chipper Jones for 33rd place on the career list. Next up: Jose Canseco at 462.
“We did a great job in the batter’s box,” manager Mike Scioscia said. “It was obviously a great night, a good breakout night for us. We talked about the last month how we’ve been scoring runs. Hopefully we can keep the momentum going tomorrow.”
Richards was the beneficiary of all those hits and runs, but he needed to keep the Tigers in check to make sure his start wasn’t a one-time chance. It could be, of course, if right-hander Dan Haren comes off the disabled list as expected Sunday to face the Texas Rangers. He joined the team Tuesday night.
But Richards made sure it will be a tough decision to send him back to Triple-A Salt Lake. No matter what happens, at least he’s given the Angels something to think about.
“Every time I take the mound I’m trying to give us a chance to win,” he said. “That’s my job as a starting pitcher. With everything aside, I’m just trying to go out and give us a chance to win and pound the zone and mix speeds and keep guys off balance.”