Angels-Phillies Preview

BY foxsports • May 14, 2014

The Los Angeles Angels have to be thrilled with what they've seen from Garrett Richards thus far.

Philadelphia's A.J. Burnett had also been pitching well before getting knocked around in his last start.

Richards squares off against Burnett as the visiting Angels try to sweep a quick two-game road set against the Phillies on Wednesday.

After failing to stand out over the previous two seasons, the 25-year-old Richards (3-0, 2.80 ERA) appears to have taken a big step forward this year. He's struck out 46 over his first seven starts spanning 45 innings, and his .186 opponent batting average is the fourth-best mark in baseball.

"It's been a long, long road," he told MLB's official website. "I've always believed in my ability. It's just getting the repetitions and getting the full-time job and just going out and pitching every five days; not having to wonder if I'm getting sent down after the game."

The right-hander yielded two runs and five hits over seven innings but didn't factor in the decision in Friday's 4-3 win at Toronto.

"Richards is one of the best young pitchers in the game," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "He can overpower you."

Richards is 1-0 with 1.75 ERA in four interleague starts dating to 2012. He threw six innings of one-run ball in a 4-2 win at Washington on April 21 in his only such matchup this year.

Burnett (2-2, 2.90) also faced the Blue Jays last week, but his trip to Toronto didn't go nearly as well. The veteran right-hander was tagged for seven runs and served up three homers in six innings in Thursday's 12-6 defeat.

"Balls ran over the plate tonight," said Burnett, who had gone 2-0 with a 0.98 ERA over his previous four starts. "I wasn't on the corners at all."

Burnett is 2-2 with a 4.75 ERA against the Angels, but he hasn't faced them since 2011 while with the Yankees.

Los Angeles (20-18) improved to 4-1 on its six-game road trip after pulling out a 4-3 victory Tuesday. Luis Jimenez hit a tiebreaking two-run double to cap a four-run sixth inning, and rookie Matt Shoemaker threw five innings to earn his first win.

Mike Trout, playing in front of more than 4,000 fans from his hometown of Millville, New Jersey, went 1 for 5 as his recent woes continued in his Philadelphia debut. The All-Star center fielder is hitting .146 with 16 strikeouts in his last 13 games.

"It was an unbelievable feeling to get an ovation like that from fans wearing Angels jerseys and Phillies jerseys," Trout said. "That was pretty cool and it means a lot to me and my family. ... I felt good at the plate, but I missed some pitches."

So have the Phillies (17-20), who have hit .222 and been outscored 46-26 during a 2-6 stretch. Catcher Carlos Ruiz is mired in a 1-for-14 slump, and third baseman Cody Asche is 2 for his last 19.

Asche has struggled in his first full season. He's hitting .226 with a team-high six errors.

''The kid had a tough night,'' manager Ryne Sandberg said. ''That can happen. We'll continue to work with him. A lot of things have been thrown at him.''

Philadelphia has been outscored 27-12 during a six-game losing streak against the Angels dating to 2003.