Astros-Angels Preview

Since returning to the starting rotation, Garrett Richards has

resembled the pitcher manager Mike Scioscia believed threw the best

of anyone on the Los Angeles Angels in spring training.

Dallas Keuchel is hoping for the same long-term effect from his

bullpen stint for the Houston Astros.

Los Angeles looks to avoid a sixth consecutive home loss while

preventing Houston from winning its fourth game in five tries

Saturday night.

Richards (3-5, 4.04 ERA) began the season in the bullpen and has

made 30 relief appearances, though he’s also been called upon to

help plug gaps in the rotation caused by injury and inconsistency

with other starters.

He went 1-2 with a 5.54 ERA in four starts from April 13-30 but

has been much better in his starting role this time since taking

the spot of Joe Blanton, who is 2-13 and struggled again in relief

in Friday’s series opener.

Richards has gone 1-1 with a 2.42 ERA in four outings since July

27. He gave up two runs in his first career complete game, though

he was saddled with a 2-1 defeat at Yankee Stadium on Monday.

“I think in the bullpen, it helped him to get his power stuff in

order,” Scioscia said. “Now back in the rotation, he’s getting

length and depth. You’re seeing his ability to command counts

improve, and he’s having a lot of success.”

The right-hander gave up four runs in 6 1-3 innings before the

Angels rallied for a 5-4 win over Houston on April 13, and he’s

also faced them three other times in relief following that

outing.

Los Angeles (54-67), though, has dropped 15 of 21 after falling

8-2 to the Astros on Friday. Hank Conger had two hits, but Blanton

gave up four runs in the ninth – including homers on consecutive

pitches – in the loss.

“The few chances we had, we just couldn’t get a hit to get us

right back into it,” Scioscia said.

Chris Carter hit a three-run homer off Blanton in the ninth for

a career-best five RBIs, and Matt Dominguez followed with a solo

shot for Houston (40-81), which improved to 8-6 against the

Angels.

”I don’t know why we do so good against them, but we’re playing

hard and having fun,” Carter said. “It’s nice to have a game like

that and get going again.”

The Astros look to make it six straight wins in Anaheim on

Saturday with help from Keuchel (5-7, 4.97), who made two

appearances out of the bullpen before returning to the rotation

Sunday

The left-hander went 8 2-3 innings and struck out eight, but he

gave up six runs – five earned and four alone with two outs in the

ninth before being replaced – in a 6-1 loss to Texas.

An Astros error in the final inning was their second of the

game.

“I told him, `You pitched one heck of a game, hold your head

high, you don’t have anything to hang your head about,”’ manager

Bo Porter said. “Defensively, we let him down.”

Keuchel had a solid start against the Angels on May 31, when he

gave up two runs in seven innings of a 6-3 victory. He’ll try to

keep Mike Trout off base, which is something no team has been able

to do for the last 38 games.

Trout, whose streak is the second-longest in franchise history,

has hit safely in 12 of 14 meetings with Houston this season.