Los Angeles Angels: Garrett Richards

Angels add Richards to big O for 'best' bid

August, 5, 2014
Aug 5

One ballgame does not a four-game, home-and-home, crosstown series make -- not when the Angels are in what figures to be a two-month race yet to run against the other AL West candidate for best team in baseball, the Oakland A's. But on Monday, the Angels provided a few quick reminders for why folks might want to think about them as baseball’s main feature, and not just in La-La Land.

Start with Garrett Richards, best young righty in the league using almost any metric you might want to turn to. He was already among the top 10 AL pitchers in WAR before Monday’s complete-game shutout, allowing just seven baserunners and whiffing nine in his 17th quality start in 23 turns. His ERA is in the top 10, but turn to Baseball Info Solutions’ Component ERA and you’ll find that the only pitchers in the league doing a better job of keeping runs off the board than Richards’ 2.02 ERC are Felix Hernandez (1.54) and Chris Sale (1.82). Now boasting a 12-4 record on a team that might wind up with the best record in baseball, it’s easy to suggest he might be in the Cy Young mix no matter who comprises this year’s electorate from among the BBWAA’s members: young or old, sabermetrically savvy or new-data indifferent and old-school.

It would be safe to say that wasn’t what most people expected from Richards at the start of the season, but the Angels are simultaneously balancing the proposition that you can be baseball’s best ballclub and nevertheless conjure up answers on the fly, because nothing works out exactly the way you expect. Success isn’t just a matter of getting great years out of great players or enjoying a breakthrough as big as Richards’; it’s also about managing around the problems that arise in-season and coming up with your best combinations as you figure out what works. Richards is one big in-season development; shoring up the bullpen with closer Huston Street and former closer Jason Grilli is another.

But another thing that’s happened along the way is that the Angels’ lineup is finally taking shape along the lines manager Mike Scioscia and general manager Jerry Dipoto might have envisioned on Opening Day. That’s because they’ve finally gotten all of the big names back from the DL while also being able to discard what hasn’t worked.

[+] EnlargeMike Trout
Jayne Kamin-Oncea/USA TODAY SportsMike Trout wasn't Superman on Monday, but on this Angels' team, he doesn't need to be every night.
In Mike Scioscia’s front-stacked lineup featuring power-hitting Kole Calhoun leading off with Mike Trout, Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton behind him, you could argue that the Angels are doing the best possible job of punting on old-school lineup design by trying to put speed or bat control up top, instead concentrating the most at-bats in their best players. They didn’t have the benefit of having that all season, not when both Calhoun and Hamilton got hurt in April, but now they have they have one of the best front fours in any lineup all active at once.

As a result, Trout can afford to turn in workmanlike Clark Kent nights like this -- when he kept his Superman thing relatively muted, “just” doubling in a run and scoring another in the Angels’ four-run first -- because everyone else did plenty to remind folks that they’re not just Mike Trout and Troutettes. Instead, ex-famous people such as Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton provided reminders that they still have plenty left in the tank, doubling and homering, respectively, off Zack Greinke.

They still afford themselves their former World Series-winning conceit of hard-contact, ball-in-play types who don’t strike out -- guys such as Howie Kendrick and Erick Aybar -- but they’re down in the order, behind the big thumpers. The bottom third of the order is where Scioscia gets to play around with combinations, such as professional hitter Efren Navarro and power prodigy C.J. Cron sharing regular at-bats between the first, left and DH slots, or Chris Iannetta and Hank Conger combining to contribute an OPS around .740 from the catchers’ slot. When the worst player in your regular lineup is David Freese, you’re probably going to score runs, and it’s why the Angels rank second in the league in runs scored per game.

The front half of the season also provided answers as well as absences. Giving Raul Ibanez a chance as their DH wasted their time and left runs unscored, but that’s no longer their problem down the stretch. Now, it’s a matter of keeping Hamilton and Pujols in the lineup and injury-free through scheduled rest and sporadic DH starts. If both are contributing behind Calhoun and Trout down the stretch, it can be the kind of lineup that keeps cranking out five runs a night.

That’s no small thing in this low-scoring age. Instead, it’s about as decisive an edge as you could ask for, even on the nights when Garrett Richards doesn’t pitch. And as the Angels look forward to scoreboard-watching night after night to see if this is the night they've caught the A's, the Angels will take both the benefits of the contender they designed and the assets that they've added along the way.

Christina Kahrl writes about MLB for ESPN. You can follow her on Twitter.

Sum of little mistakes Dodgers' new plague

August, 4, 2014
Aug 4

LOS ANGELES -- The last time the Los Angeles Dodgers were in a series with a lot at stake in a stadium filled with revved-up fans stoked by a rivalry, they played their best baseball of the season, outscoring the San Francisco Giants 17-4 over a three-game sweep at AT&T Park two weekends ago.

Where did that team go?

A sloppy weekend against the last-place Chicago Cubs seemed pretty easy to explain, as the back of the Dodgers’ rotation continued to sputter in two of those games.

But the lights were bright again Monday night, the steamrolling Los Angeles Angels were in town and it felt as if it would once again bring out the Dodgers’ best. Their second-best starting pitcher, Zack Greinke, was on the mound.

[+] EnlargeCarl Crawford
Jayne Kamin-Oncea/USA TODAY SportsCarl Crawford misjudged a ball off Mike Trout's bat that led to an RBI double in the first inning. It was one of several miscues for the Dodgers on Monday.
Instead, it brought out their bad habits. They fumbled the ball around at times, paid scant attention at times and made, according to the man who threw it, “one of the worst pitches ever thrown.”

Of course, there’s always tomorrow. The Dodgers are still in first place -- by a dwindling 1½ games -- and they have three more cracks to capture Southern California bragging rights for their fans over the next three nights, one of them behind Clayton Kershaw.

But the sloppiness that plagued the Dodgers in April and May has crept back into their play over the past four games. And it has begun to get on some peoples’ nerves. Some people who matter.

“You look at this game as a playoff-type game from the standpoint of the type of team you’re playing, and you make mistakes, you pay,” said Dodgers manager Don Mattingly. “It’s as simple as that.”

Hanley Ramirez, who had a -1.0 defensive WAR entering the game, according to Baseball Reference, made two throwing errors, one of which led to an unearned run in the first inning. The end of the half-inning saw the Dodgers in a quick 4-0 hole. Carl Crawford made two failed attempts at sliding catches, one of which was hit by Mike Trout -- one of the fastest players in baseball -- and it got by Crawford and went to the wall for an RBI double.

Yasiel Puig put his head down and allowed Albert Pujols -- far from one of the fastest players in the game -- to tag up and take second base.

It was the kind of effort that would get you beaten by a team like the Cubs. Against a team like the Angels, who play strong defense and are 23 games over .500 in the powerhouse AL West, it’s a good way to get embarrassed.

It was not the way the Dodgers wanted to start off this interleague series, especially in front of more than 53,000 fans.

“We’ve had three games [in the past four] where we basically lost in the first inning,” Mattingly said.

That trend is beginning to bother Greinke, too. Like fellow starter Dan Haren, many of his worst starts have seen him labor early. He has a 5.87 ERA in the first inning.

“It seems to be the problem too often,” Greinke said. “I was not even close to hitting the spot to Trout and Pujols, and they did what they should have.”

His sixth-inning changeup to Josh Hamilton was thrown too hard and right down the middle, and Hamilton pummeled it over the right-field wall.

“That was probably up there with the worst pitches ever thrown,” Greinke said. “I just couldn’t believe I could throw that bad a pitch at that important a time.”

The Dodgers described Angels starter Garrett Richards as “electric,” and he certainly was that, touching 96 mph in the ninth inning and striking out nine batters to get the shutout. But he mostly just piled up ground balls, 12 in all. The Dodgers got only four balls airborne off Richards.

There are games when the opposing pitcher is simply going to be better than you. It hurts more when you make it that much easier for him.

Rapid Reaction: Angels 5, Dodgers 0

August, 4, 2014
Aug 4

LOS ANGELES -- There were more than 53,000 fans at Dodger Stadium Monday and many of them booed Mike Trout’s every move. Fans in Anaheim likely will give it to Yasiel Puig pretty good on Wednesday.

In other words, Southern California’s baseball rivalry is doing pretty well, with contending teams and young stars to energize and/or irritate the two fan bases.

Trout’s Los Angeles Angels got off to a better start in this year's regular-season Freeway Series with a 5-0 win at Dodger Stadium on Monday night.

There was just the right hint of tension, too, with Puig and Albert Pujols appearing to exchange some words after the top of the eighth inning. Puig apparently took exception to Pujols tagging up and advancing to second on a fly ball while he looked the other way.

How it happened: The Angels jumped all over Zack Greinke’s pitching and the Dodgers’ shaky defense in the first inning, grabbing a quick 4-0 lead. Angels starter Garrett Richards pretty much took it from there.

The game never felt particularly competitive. The Dodgers managed just five hits, all singles, off Richards, the game’s hardest-throwing starting pitcher, according to Fangraphs data. Greinke was good after the first inning, with the only appreciable mistake a too-hard changeup that Josh Hamilton clobbered over the right-field wall.

Hits: For the Angels, it was Richards (12-4), their best starting pitcher this year, bouncing back from two rough outings with a shutout. He struck out nine batters, but mainly the Dodgers hit ground ball after ground ball. For the Dodgers, the highlight was the major league debut of pitcher Carlos Frias, who pitched two scoreless innings, allowing just Pujols' single and striking out a batter. Frias is in contention to join the Dodgers' rotation if Josh Beckett or Dan Haren continues to struggle or goes down with an injury.

Misses: The Angels, with Erick Aybar at shortstop and Trout in center, have one of the stronger defensive teams. Fielding sometimes is an adventure for the Dodgers. When it is, Hanley Ramirez often is involved. On Monday, he made two errors, one of which was a costly throw that led to an unearned run in the first inning. Meanwhile, Carl Crawford made two unsuccessful attempts at sliding catches in the first inning. The second one, hit by Trout, got past Crawford and rolled all the way to the wall. Trout would have had a triple, but he had to retreat after missing first base. In the eighth, Puig stood there after catching a high fly ball and Pujols was paying attention, sprinting to second.

Stat of the game: The Angels have the best interleague record (92-48) in the majors since 2007, and part of that is their domination of their regional rivals. The Angels are 57-40 against the Dodgers.

Up next: The four-game series continues with the last of two contests starting at 7:10 p.m. Tuesday at Dodgers Stadium. Clayton Kershaw (13-2, 1.71 ERA) goes for the Dodgers, while lefty Hector Santiago (3-7, 3.76) pitches for the Angels.

Angels' rotation may be their weak link

July, 22, 2014
Jul 22

The Angels are the second-best team in baseball. Win or lose going into Monday night’s game against the AL East-leading Orioles, they were going to be the second-best team in baseball after the fact. They lost, missing the chance to move within a game of the A’s in the AL West race. But it’s July and there’s still plenty of time, so there’s no reason to sweat, right?

Certainly not, at least not if you look at the big picture and the projection models at FanGraphs or Baseball Prospectus, which say the Angels have a 98 or 99 percent shot at the playoffs. Slam-dunk sure thing? Sounds like it.

But there’s a problem with that: It doesn’t mean all that much in the era of the one-game play-in wild-card “round.” The Angels' shot at winning the AL West is calculated as much less of a sure thing, from the 20 percent range according to analyst Clay Davenport, to the 30s for FanGraphs, or the 40s for Baseball Prospectus. These are roughly the same as the chances of the Blue Jays coming back to win the AL East and then also not having to sweat a one-or-done scenario despite probably being 10 games worse than the Angels at season’s end. Saying the Angels’ shot at playing their way into the one-game coin-toss of the wild card is around 60 or 70 percent is like saying their chance of their season ending a day or two after the regular season is still astonishingly likely.

[+] EnlargeMatt Shoemaker
Stephen Dunn/Getty ImagesMatt Shoemaker's loss was the latest tough start for the Angels' non-Richards rotation regulars.
Unless they beat the A’s and win the West. Unless they make their math problem now into Oakland’s math problem tomorrow. That’s their challenge, and losing games like Monday’s will only make it harder.

To pull this off in the long weeks to come, they’re going to have to find a happier answer in their rotation than the ones they’ve found so far. While the trades for Jason Grilli and Huston Street may have shored up their bullpen, there’s the larger problem of how good their rotation really is outside of newly minted ace and All-Star Garrett Richards. Assuming that Jered Weaver’s back is sound all the way down the stretch, he hasn’t overpowered strong teams’ lineups, seeing his OPS jump 50 points and his WHIP increase by 0.3 facing teams that are .500 or better; unsurprisingly, his FIP is 4.12, which suggests sturdy mediocrity, not the ace he once was. C.J. Wilson won’t be back from his DL stint for a sprained ankle until after the trade deadline; even if he’s sound, his 4.29 FIP doesn’t suggest he’s a solid No. 2, either. And the back-end trio of Hector Santiago, Tyler Skaggs and Matt Shoemaker have put together just 15 quality starts in their 38 turns.

To catch the A’s, the Angels are going to need not just one guy but several guys to step up down the stretch. Not just because you can’t count on a league-best offense to crank out five or more runs every night, but because the Angels need to have somebody else besides Richards to use in those potentially scary end-of-year situations. What if Richards has to pitch in the last weekend series against the Mariners but the Angels don’t catch the A’s then? What if they have to play a tiebreaker? Who pitches the wild-card game? Where does that leave them in the ALDS? They’ll need some of the non-Richards starters to step up, not just to keep up with the A’s and their shored-up rotation, but to be able to win October games when they don’t put five or six runs on the scoreboard.

That was why Shoemaker’s start against Baltimore was a little more important than just another late-July turn. Barring a trade, somebody is going to be bumped once Wilson comes back from the DL. Even on a night when he struck out a career-high 10 batters, seeing Shoemaker get beaten deep twice by Adam Jones was the sort of thing that won’t keep the rookie ahead of Skaggs or Santiago, not that either of them is owning his slot.

To be sure, the Angels should be grateful things are this close. Thanks in large part to early-season bullpen problems of their own, the A’s are four games worse than you’d project from their runs scored and allowed, which is a big part of the reason they are within striking range for the Angels, even after Oakland went 20-10 in its past 30 games. All it took was the Angels going 22-8 in their past 30 before Monday, no easy thing to do with a rotation that may struggle to match the A’s made-over, Jeff Samardzija-enhanced rotation in the last 60 games.

If Wilson or Weaver, Shoemaker or Skaggs steps up, things will be that much more interesting all the way down to the wire. If not, the Angels may be one of those great teams that, like the 1993 Giants, wind up getting to brag about how great they were without getting much of an opportunity to prove it come October. Those Giants were caught from behind by the Braves, San Francisco winning 103 games for the second-best record in baseball … and no October invite. The Halos have to hope they’ll earn something more than one game better than that -- but more than hoping for it, they’ll have to do it.

Christina Kahrl writes about MLB for ESPN. You can follow her on Twitter.

Richards, Angels look to tame Blue Jays

May, 9, 2014
May 9
The Los Angeles Angels will send power righty Garrett Richards to the mound Friday as they start a series against a Toronto Blue Jays and their lineup of mashers.

Richards will look to exorcise his Rogers Centre demons after putting up a 6.57 ERA in four previous appearances in Toronto. That is his third-worst ERA at any opposing park.

This season has been different so far for Richards as he tossed four quality starts already after having eight all of last season. Let’s take a look at some of his improvements.

Bringing the heat: The righty’s fastball has improved by a full mile per hour in terms of average velocity -- from 95 to 96 -- topping out as high as 98 miles per hour.

This has translated to a swing-and-miss rate of 21 percent on heaters -- ninth-best among starters.

In the past, Richards missed his spots too often in the strike zone, especially up. And we all know what happens to mistake fastballs up in the zone, no matter how hard you throw them. It appears pitching coach Mike Butcher addressed that this offseason because Richards has been doing a better job keeping the ball down in the zone this season.

From 2011 to 2013, opponents hit .293 against Richards’ fastball, but this season that has been cut to .230.

Sapping opponents power: When Richards debuted in 2011, he allowed four home runs in 14 innings, as he was torched for a .618 opponent slugging percentage.

In each successive season in the big leagues though, he has lowered that slugging percentage.

This season? Richards is allowing a .243 slugging percentage, which ranks tops among all qualified starters -- just ahead of Florida Marlins’ phenom Jose Fernandez.

Finishing hitters: A situational improvement Richards has made is in his ability to end at-bats when he gets two strikes. Entering this season he allowed hitters to bat .214, while striking out 35 percent of batters when getting to a two-strike count. This season, those numbers have improved to a .101 opponent’s average and a 52 percent strikeout rate.

Trying to tame Toronto: Several Blue Jays have had success in their career against Richards.

Jose Reyes and Colby Rasmus have each gone 3-6 lifetime against him with two extra-base hits. Edwin Encarnacion’s battles against Richards have been all-or-nothing as he has struck out four times in eight at-bats, but also has three hits including a home run.

Angels 2014: Could this be the year?

March, 31, 2014
Mar 31

The other day, a reporter asked Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto to assign blame for the acquisition of pitcher Joe Blanton, the occasion being the Angels’ unconditional release of the, ahem, struggling right-hander. Dipoto’s answer was refreshing.

“It’s a mistake on my part. There’s no one else to blame,” Dipoto said.

That little bit of accountability had to be music to Angels fans ears. For four long years, a team with three of the most dangerous hitters in baseball, a strong manager and one of the best starting pitchers in the game has been shut out of the playoffs, and the atmosphere in Anaheim has been a bit more drab with each passing season.

It should be noted, by the way, that owner Arte Moreno didn’t do Dipoto any favors in recent seasons by jumping in on the big-splash signings of Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton, leaving Dipoto scant resources to build a pitching staff.

Jered Weaver
AP Photo/Jim CowsertJered Weaver still has the deception, movement and savvy to serve as a legitimate No. 1 starter.
Perhaps Angels fans didn't realize how spoiled they had become by the team’s run of excellence under Mike Scioscia from 2002 to 2009, a stretch that included a World Series title, three trips to the ALCS and six trips to the postseason.

Did the release of Blanton and Dipoto’s frankness signal a new era for Orange County’s baseball team?

The Angels' offseason makeover wasn't all that different from what the Boston Red Sox underwent going into the 2013 season. It was a bit of a reboot, with an emphasis on quality, low-impact moves rather than the big winter meetings splash that winds up weighing the team down.

Dipoto has certainly been making every effort to improve the team’s pitching, which -- even more than underperformance and injuries from Pujols and Hamilton -- has been this team’s demise. Presuming even a marginal uptick in those two sluggers’ production, the Angels look like a team with vast potential to improve. Who wouldn’t take a lineup that includes Mike Trout, Pujols and Hamilton?

This pitching staff has potential. When Jered Weaver first arrived in the major leagues, he could touch 95 mph and, combined with his off-speed pitches and funky delivery, made for one of the more uncomfortable at-bats in baseball. He’s different now, with the years of heavy workloads reducing his fastball velocity to the sub-90 range most games. But he’s still got the deception, the movement and the savvy to serve as a legitimate No. 1 starter.

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Trout's first grand slam powers Angels

April, 20, 2013

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Mike Trout capped a nine-run first inning against Rick Porcello with his first career grand slam, Garrett Richards pitched two-hit ball over seven innings and the Los Angeles Angels routed the Detroit Tigers 10-0 on Saturday.

For the full story, click this link.

Pitchers dominate, but Angels can't gain ground

September, 26, 2012
Zack GreinkeJeff Gross/Getty ImagesZack Greinke had 13 strikeouts in five innings but had to leave the game early because of a high pitch count.

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Los Angeles Angels pitcher Zack Greinke became the first pitcher in the modern era to strike out 13 batters in five innings, and yet the Angels gained no ground.

As a team, the Angels tied a major league strikeout record, and yet they remain where they were when the day started.

The Angels' pitchers dominated in a 5-4 victory over the Seattle Mariners on Tuesday night at Angel Stadium, but because the Oakland Athletics rallied for a 3-2, 10-inning victory over the Texas Rangers, the Angels remain two games out of the final wild-card spot with eight games to play.

The Angels also could not put any distance between themselves and the Tampa Bay Rays because the Rays also won and remained a game behind the Angels in the chase for that final wild-card spot.

The Angels' inability to change their position in the standings put a damper on a historical pitching performance Tuesday night.

"That sucks," said outfielder Torii Hunter, who hit a two-run home run Tuesday. "Trust me, we're scoreboard-watching. I don't care what nobody says. I am."

A few more pitching performances like they got Tuesday and the Angels should be able to make up that ground before the season ends.

Greinke, Garrett Richards, Kevin Jepsen and Ernesto Frieri combined to whiff 20 Mariners and tied the major league record for strikeouts in a nine-inning game. The Chicago Cubs (1998) and Boston Red Sox (1986, 1996) have also had 20 strikeouts in a nine-inning game.

The Angles were the first to use multiple players to reach that number, however, as Kerry Wood and Roger Clemens turned the trick by themselves for the Cubs and Red Sox.

Greinke certainly had the stuff to match that, but his pitch count piled up to 110 by the end of the fifth inning and he had to come out of the game with the Angels leading, 4-1. It was the third consecutive good start Greinke had to leave early because of his pitch count.

But unlike the past two, when Frieri blew leads in the ninth inning, the bullpen held on to keep the Angels breathing in the playoff chase.

"I was just trying to get ahead of guys, and that was the plan," Greinke said. "It just kind of worked out that I got a bunch of strikeouts early, and then later on I kind of had to go for a strikeout because there were people in scoring position in a close game. Kind of fluky, I would say, is the main thing that happened.”

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Angels excited to welcome Zack Greinke

July, 27, 2012
ANAHEIM -- As the Angels players came off the field following batting practice Friday, several of them wondered what all the commotion was about as a large contingent of reporters waited to talk to general manager Jerry Dipoto about the trade that had landed Cy Young winner Zack Greinke from the Milwaukee Brewers.

Some of them had an inkling something was about to go down.

Right fielder Torii Hunter faced Greinke plenty of times when both players were in the American League Central, Hunter on the Minnesota Twins and Greinke in Kansas City.

"I've seen him mature, as a kid and now one of the best pitchers in the game, so I'm excited to have him as a teammate," Hunter said. "I'll probably be the first one to greet him."

Dipoto indicated Friday's move likely will be the Angels' only trade before Tuesday's deadline. That is welcome news to outfielder Peter Bourjos and pitcher Garrett Richards, both of whom saw their names thrown around in trade rumors over the past few weeks.

"To take away from our major-league club right now, where we stand, would have been particularly painful," Dipoto said.

Here are lineups for Friday night's game with the Tampa Bay Rays:

Tampa Bay
Sam Fuld LF
B.J. Upton CF
Ben Zobrist 2B
Matt Joyce RF
Jeff Keppinger DH
Carlos Pena 1B
Bryan Roberts 3B
Jose Lobaton C
Elliot Johnson SS

Mike Trout CF
Torii Hunter RF
Albert Pujols 1B
Mark Trumbo LF
Kendrys Morales DH
Albert Callaspo 3B
Howie Kendrick 2B
Maicer Izturis SS
Bobby Wilson C

Angels' rotation wobbles along

July, 24, 2012
Garrett RichardsAP Photo/Reed SaxonGarrett Richards has been up and down this season with the Angels, who are trying to solve their pitching issues.

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Rumors swirl this time of year.

They also dart. They almost always die.

A couple of potentially marquee solutions to the Los Angeles Angels' pitching problem might have disappeared late Tuesday, as reports indicated Cole Hamels was nearing a contract extension to stay in Philadelphia and ESPN's Tim Kurkjian reported that the Angels' talks with the Tampa Bay Rays about James Shields had "fizzled."

So much for those big names, perhaps, but Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto still has until 1 p.m. next Tuesday to make the one move that could radically change the AL playoff picture in his team's favor. The Angels have been hoping for a while now that their rotation would heal itself, but that has been like watching paint dry in 80 percent humidity.

After rookie Garrett Richards put the Angels in an early hole they couldn't climb out of in Tuesday's 4-1 loss to the Kansas City Royals, the evidence suggests Dipoto has little choice but to act. In the Angels' last 23 games, the starters' ERA is 5.81. Take Jered Weaver's five starts out of that mix and it's 6.95.

You know the players are pulling for Dipoto, just as he pulls for them night after night. Perhaps they could stand around and clap when he pulls out his cell phone? It can't be fun watching much of their work go for naught. Since the All-Star break, the Angels have averaged 5.2 runs per game and gone 5-7.

Lately, the offense has shown some signs of petering out and that's a truly frightening thought.

"It's always good if you go get somebody," Torii Hunter said. "If it's a veteran guy who's been around, that's fine. If you get him, you get him, but right now, it's not really a necessity. If we get him, we'll be thankful, we'll be happy. Other than that we're going to just go out there and keep doing what we do."

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3 up, 3 down: Royals 4, Angels 1

July, 24, 2012

ANAHEIM -- The Angels missed out on a nice opportunity to gain ground on the Texas Rangers by playing one of their drabbest games of the season.

They managed just four hits in a 4-1 loss to the Kansas City Royals at Angel Stadium on Tuesday night. For the first time since May 25, the Angels are not alone in second place. The streaking Oakland A's pulled into a tie with them, five games behind Texas, which lost 2-1 at home to the Boston Red Sox.

The Good:

Point of debate. On a night when the man who replaced him in the rotation struggled, Jerome Williams shined. He pitched four scoreless innings to give the Angels a chance to rally. After starting the season 6-2, Williams lost his next five starts and that cost him a demotion to the bullpen. Manager Mike Scioscia reiterated before the game that the move could be temporary, however. Williams might have given Angels management something to think about as it tries to cobble together a capable rotation.

Short work. Garrett Richards is exactly the kind of pitcher bad teams are trying to acquire this time of year. He has shown flashes of promise in the major leagues, is young and cheap and has good enough stuff to suggest there's a nice upside. What the Angels are trying to decide is whether he's ready for a pennant race. Lately, he has given mixed signals. His first three starts were strong, but since then he has pitched five innings or fewer in three of five starts. The Royals were all over him in the first two innings, putting the Angels in a steep hole immediately, but he steadied himself to finish on a good note with three scoreless innings.

Redemption. A lot of people in the Angels organization can take a little slice of credit for whatever Royals pitcher Will Smith does in his career. The Angels drafted him in the seventh round in 2008 and he spent three seasons in their organization before departing in the trade that brought Alberto Callaspo back to the Angels. Tuesday, the lefty showed the Angels what they're missing. He buzzed through seven innings, allowing just two hits and working around four walks.

The Bad:

Streaks snapped. Mike Trout went 0-for-3 to snap a career-best 12-game hitting streak, but he still had a chance to get closer to the AL record for consecutive games scoring a run. He walked in the eighth inning, but after a long at-bat, Torii Hunter popped up to end the inning. Trout had scored in 15 consecutive games before Tuesday. As Trout goes, the Angels tend to go and they looked dead without their spark at the top of the order.

Un-designated. Everybody said it was a great advantage for Albert Pujols to come to the American League so he could get some rest at designated hitter once every 10 games or so. That hasn't been working out so well. Pujols is 4-for-31 (.129) at DH this year with two home runs and seven strikeouts. He had an awkward, 0-for-3 night at the plate, to say the least. In the third inning, he swung at a pitch and hit it with his right forearm, near the elbow. How is that possible?

Rough debut. Jean Segura might well prove to be a fine major-league player. In his major-league debut, however, he appeared a bit overmatched. Segura struck out on four pitches in his first at-bat and three pitches in his next. He hit a sharp grounder and reached on an error in his last. He also was a bit slow starting what might have been an inning-ending double play hit by Alcides Escobar in the second inning. It resulted in a run-scoring fielder's choice.

Garrett Richards beats out Jerome Williams

July, 21, 2012
ANAHEIM -- The Angels picked rookie Garrett Richards to stay in the rotation next week and will use Jerome Williams out of the bullpen for the next week at least, Angels manager Mike Scioscia said Saturday.

Richards is 3-1 with a 3.53 ERA in seven starts. Williams (6-7, 4.85) has allowed 10 earned runs and four home runs in the two starts since he came off the disabled list, where he spent nearly a month after experiencing breathing problems after a start against the San Francisco Giants.

"The ball's up, it's been flat at times. He's pitched around the zone at times and then when he's tried to come after guys, he's been hit hard," Scioscia said. "Jerome pitched some great baseball with us, but right now the decision made is pretty clear."

Richards will start Tuesday night's game against the Kansas City Royals.

Here are Saturday's lineups against first-place Texas:

Ian Kinsler 2B
Elvis Andrus SS
Josh Hamilton LF
Adrian Beltre 3B
Michael Young 1B
Nelson Cruz RF
Mike Napoli DH
Yorvit Torrealba C
Craig Gentry CF

Mike Trout CF
Torii Hunter RF
Albert Pujols 1B
Mark Trumbo LF
Kendrys Morales DH
Alberto Callaspo 3B
Howie Kendrick 2B
Erick Aybar SS
John Hester C

3 up, 3 down: Angels 13, Tigers 0

July, 17, 2012

The Angels' power took a while to show up this year, but it has arrived in force.

They hit five home runs in a 13-0 win over the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park on Tuesday night. Despite an anemic April, the Angels rank fifth in the American League with a .424 slugging percentage, and they're quickly moving up the ranks.

The Good:

T and T. The nickname seems to be catching on these days to describe the Angels' dynamic 20-something duo of Mike Trout and Mark Trumbo. On Tuesday it looked as if they had packed explosives in their bats. For Trout's part, it seems as if every time you expect this magical run to continue, he does something more impressive. Everyone talks about his speed, but he hit an opposite-field, 430-foot home run Tuesday at a ballpark that's far from miniature. His speed isn't going to improve much, but his power could. Could he be a 40-40 threat soon? Now? You can't put any ceiling on his talent, because he just breaks through those.

T and T. Trumbo's gifts are more focused, but he's still a considerable talent. If a pitcher leaves the ball in a less-than-ideal spot, Trumbo will embarrass him with a long home run. He fell behind 0-and-2 against young Jacob Turner on Tuesday, but Turner left a pitch over the plate and a bit inside, and Trumbo crushed it to left field for a three-run home run to get the Angels out to a 4-0 lead. Trumbo's 26 home runs are only two off the league home run lead, and that's extraordinary given his age and the location of his home games.

Another youngster. The Angels would love for Garrett Richards to pitch his way back into their suddenly beleaguered rotation. They like his upside and could use a solid No. 4 or 5 starter, particularly when he's a homegrown 24-year-old. Pitching with tons of early run support, Richards seemed to relax into his stuff, and he cruised through seven innings, giving up only three hits and pitching around four walks. The fact he had only two strikeouts shouldn't be a big concern. With the big lead, he did a good job inducing quick outs.

The Bad:

Tigers bats. They've been clawing their way back in the AL Central in part due to a resurgent offense, but the Tigers fell behind Tuesday and did virtually nothing all game. The shutout was their first in exactly one year, a streak of 159 games and a franchise record.

Lone soldier. When your team turns somebody else's stadium into a batting practice session, pounding 18 hits, five of which leave the stadium, it's got to be painful to take an 0-for-4 and hit into two double plays. Erick Aybar had that distinction Tuesday. The frustrating part with Aybar, at times, is his extreme lack of patience. He saw just nine pitches in those four at-bats.

Stubbornness. Should it have taken 91 games to realize Trumbo was a better cleanup option than Kendrys Morales against right-handed pitchers? Mike Scioscia bowed to what seemed increasingly inevitable Tuesday and forewent breaking up the right-handed bats for a more vibrant option in the No. 4 spot. Trumbo leads the league in slugging percentage, so it seems like a pretty good idea. It probably was about a month ago, too.

Angels give Eric Hurley another chance

July, 6, 2012
ANAHEIM -- Eric Hurley, the newest Angel who was called up Friday to fill the void left by the demotion of Garrett Richards, traveled a long, bumpy road to get here.

The right-handed pitcher debuted four years ago for the Texas Rangers, making five starts before being sent down again. He never returned. Instead, Hurley, a first-round draft selection in 2004, quickly went from being labeled as a can't-miss star to released, from an elite pitching prospect to bust.

The 26-year-old who missed two entire seasons because of a torn rotator cuff and broken wrist was back in a big league clubhouse Friday, with a smile that stretched from here to Salt Lake City.

"Last night [when I got the call], I woke my wife up quick and said, 'Hey, you're not going to believe this. We've got to pack,' " said Hurley, who will wear No. 35.

Angels manager Mike Scioscia won't name a starter for Sunday's series finale against the Baltimore Orioles until Saturday, but it likely won't be Hurley. His plan was to use Hurley out of the bullpen this weekend.

"I know Scioscia's big thing is to throw strikes, keep the ball down in the zone and keep the team in the ballgame," Hurley said. "That's my goal. ... They just told me to get up here and gave me a locker. I'll pitch whenever they tell me."

Lineups for Friday's game:

1. Robert Andino 2B
2. JJ Hardy SS
3. Adam Jones CF
4. Matt Wieters C
5. Wilson Betemit 3B
6. Mark Reynolds 1B
7. Steve Pearce RF
8. Ronny Paulino DH
9. Xavier Avery LF

RHP Miguel Gonzalez (0-0, 2.31 ERA)

1. Mike Trout CF
2. Torii Hunter RF
3. Albert Pujols 1B
4. Kendrys Morales DH
5. Mark Trumbo LF
6. Alberto Callaspo 3B
7. Howie Kendrick 2B
8. Erick Aybar SS
9. John Hester C

LHP C.J. Wilson (9-4, 2.33 ERA)

Garrett Richards optioned to Triple-A

July, 5, 2012
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- The long line of encouragement began with reliever Jordan Walden, who walked over to a broken Garrett Richards in one dark corner of the Angels clubhouse Thursday night. Then it was 39-year-old veteran Jason Isringhausen who dropped by to offer his words of wisdom, followed by All-Star C.J. Wilson and pitching coach Mike Butcher.

Richards, 24, had just been optioned to Triple-A Salt Lake City, the roster move acting as one last dagger in his worst night as a big leaguer. He's still young, though, and highly regarded in the organization. The outpouring of support from fellow pitchers proved it.

"I have to start throwing strikes more consistently," Richards said after cleaning out his locker. "I have to go back to the drawing board."

The Angels came from behind to beat the Baltimore Orioles 9-7, but Richards was battered for a career-high seven earned runs, 10 hits and three home runs, failing to make it out of the fifth inning. He gave up 15 earned runs over his past three starts after giving up only two in his previous three. The potential is undoubtedly there, but the Angels couldn't wait for him to figure things out.

"Garrett's starts have been a little short recently," manager Mike Scioscia said. "It became apparent tonight that we needed another arm this weekend."

On a day when right-hander Dan Haren went on the disabled list for the first time in his 10-year career, the Angels rotation was dealt another blow. Ervin Santana (4-9, 5.75 ERA) has been unable to snap out of his funk and fifth starter Jerome Williams (chest) won't be back until after the All-Star break. Sunday's starter has yet to be named. A corresponding move to Richards' optioning will be announced Friday.

Scioscia said Richards will get at least one start at Triple-A next week and, depending on the team's needs, could be back fairly soon.

"I still feel like the same pitcher. Pitchers are going to go through streaks just like hitters are," Richards said. "I'm not discouraged. I'm motivated. It's back to work."



Jered Weaver
18 3.52 164 207
BAH. Kendrick .292
HRM. Trout 35
RBIM. Trout 109
RM. Trout 112
OPSM. Trout .951
ERAG. Richards 2.61
SOG. Richards 164