ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) With every start he makes, Garrett Richards looks more and more like the ace pitcher he was when his 2014 season ended abruptly because of a knee injury.
Richards took a no-hitter into the seventh inning Sunday, and the Los Angeles Angels scored all their runs in the fifth en route to a 3-1 victory that secured a four-game split with the AL West-leading Houston Astros.
Richards was 13-4 with a 2.61 ERA in 26 starts last season before missing the final six weeks because of a torn patellar tendon in his left knee. He was injured while covering first base on Aug. 20 at Fenway Park.
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”I’ve put in a lot of time this offseason, and from Day One, I knew that I was going to be back within a month or so,” Richards said. ”And I’ve been moving in the right direction.”
Richards (3-1) walked his first batter of the game, then retired 15 in a row before walking rookie Preston Tucker to open the sixth. The right-hander walked his first two in the seventh before striking out Colby Rasmus, but Jason Castro lined a clean single to left field on a 2-2 pitch to break up the no-hit bid.
”I don’t feel like you should start thinking about something like that until you go out for the ninth inning, because there’s a lot of things that can happen before then,” Richards said. ”So I just tried to be efficient, get ahead of the hitters and throw quality strikes.”
Richards fanned Marwin Gonzalez with the bases loaded before hitting Tucker with his 110th and final pitch, forcing in a run and reducing the Angels’ lead to 3-1.
Fernando Salas retired pinch-hitter Evan Gattis on a popup in short right field, with second baseman Johnny Giavotella fighting the bright sun all the way.
Richards has a 2.25 ERA in five starts, including a 4-3 loss at Houston. He fanned 10 in the rematch and walked four to win his third straight decision and help the defending AL West champions move within five games of the Astros.
”Anytime you’re playing your division opponent, and they won the division last year, it would have been nice to come in here and win the series. But having a split here is not the worst thing in the world,” losing pitcher Scott Feldman said.
Joe Smith pitched a perfect eighth inning and Huston Street did likewise in the ninth for his 10th save in 12 attempts, following back-to-back blown saves Wednesday and Thursday.
Feldman (2-4) allowed three runs and six hits in seven innings. The right-hander, coming off his shortest outing of the season, lost his second in a row after giving up six runs and nine hits over three innings in a 7-1 home loss to Seattle.
”Sometimes it just happens where you get in one of those games where their guy was throwing great,” Feldman said. ”He’s got some of the best stuff I’ve ever seen. So when he’s on his game, he’s pretty tough.”
Chris Iannetta snapped a scoreless tie in the fifth with an infield hit that scored two runs.
Feldman went into a slide to field Iannetta’s roller toward the third base line and tried for a force at the plate on David Freese, but threw the ball way over Castro’s head while on the seat of his pants. The error allowed Erick Aybar to come home as well, and Kole Calhoun followed with a sacrifice fly to make it 3-0.
”It was just one of those plays where you’ve got to go with your instinct,” Feldman said. ”I just tried to get there as fast as I could, but it wasn’t a good throw.”
Astros: LHP Brett Oberholtzer is expected to make his season debut Wednesday night against San Francisco. He was slated to be the team’s No. 3 starter before developing a blister on his index finger. … Houston closer Luke Gregerson is expected back from the emergency family leave list on Tuesday. … RF George Springer is eligible to come off the seven-day concussion disabled list Wednesday.
Astros: RHP Collin McHugh (4-0) is 11-0 with a 2.45 ERA over his last 14 starts. He will face the Giants for the first time in his career Tuesday night and needs a victory to tie the franchise record for consecutive wins.
Angels: LHP C.J. Wilson (1-2) will pitch Tuesday night in the opener of a two-game set with Colorado that closes out the homestand. He has allowed fewer than three runs in five of his six starts this season.