Richards continues All-Star caliber season with win over Rangers

ANAHEIM, Calif. — If July comes and Garrett Richards finds himself in Minnesota during the All-Star break, it may come as a surprise to some. It shouldn’t. Momentum is picking up for the Angels starter to find his way onto the American League roster.

The truth is, Richards is quietly developing into one of the top pitchers in the American League. In his first year as a full-time starter in the big leagues, Richards is leading Angels starters in ERA. He’s seventh in the league in that category. He’s also in the top 10 in strikeouts.

Richards lowered his ERA to 2.79 while picking up his seventh win of the season in the Angels’ 7-3 series-opening win over the Rangers.  

It wasn’t a masterpiece, by any means, for Richards on Friday night. He labored at times with a couple of wild pitches and three walks but the damage was left to a minimum in Richards’ six innings of work. He gave up four hits, just one earned run, and seven strikeouts while tossing a career-high 119 pitches.

In four June starts, he’s now 3-0 with a 0.67 ERA to go along with 30 strikeouts.

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"I wouldn’t say I got myself in trouble," Richards said. "Most of the time guys got on base was with two outs and I walk a guy. Obviously that’s not an every-night thing.

"Guys got on base (and) I did my best to minimize damage."

Minimizing damage is all a part of the evolution of Richards. He’s always been described as a pitcher who has "great stuff." American League hitters are finding that out this season. The biggest difference between Richards today and the Richards of old isn’t the work he’s put in with Angels pitching coach Mike Butcher on his delivery or his pitching repertoire, but his confidence.

"It was a big relief for them just to give me a job this year," Richards said. "They gave me a job right out of spring training. I don’t have to worry about going up and down. I don’t have to worry about pitching in Triple-A. I don’t have to worry about that on my shoulder. Butch called me in the offseason and told me I was going to make 33 starts this year and so that’s all I needed to know."

After being a spot starter for parts of the last three seasons and bouncing up and down from the big leagues to Triple-A, Richards has exhaled and done what many thought he was capable of all along.

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"Garrett’s got great stuff and it moves in the zone," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "It moves through the zone. He’s got a little cut (and) a little sink and that’s at 97 (miles per hour). That’s even before he even gets to spinning the ball with his slider and his curveball. His stuff is really, really good.

"It takes a little bit of time (for pitchers to develop) but where he is right now and where his confidence is, hopefully, it’s going to keep him at this level for a long time."   

As for the All-Star Game in July, Richards is hearing the talk but he can’t focus on that.

"Obviously I want to be there but that’s out of my control," Richards said. "I can just control what I do every fifth day. Hopefully I continue to do what I’m doing and hopefully I get a bid to go."

His numbers certainly say he’s deserving of one.