68-49 overall (1-3 vs. Dodgers, 1-2 vs. Red Sox last week)
Richards earned his first career complete game shutout last Monday, limiting the Dodgers to five hits while striking out nine.
The right-hander’s deceptive breaking balls baffled hitters. A majority of his 122 pitches never left the infield; Richards tied a season high with 13 ground balls. If anything, he got stronger as the game continued. His first and last pitch each notched 97 mph.
Saturday’s outing against Boston wasn’t as impressive, but equally as effective. Richards yielded three runs-one earned- on three hits while keeping the Angels in contention through 6 1/3 innings. If Mike Trout hadn’t taken Clay Buchholz deep in the eighth Richards may have been a tough-luck loser.
Luckily, Pujols guaranteed that Richards wouldn’t factor in the decision.
Six and a half hours after the game started, Pujols notched his first walk-off home run as an Angels. The first baseman lined reliever Brandon Workman’s full-count pitch just over the out-of-town scoreboard in the 19th inning. It was the longest game in Angels history and, more importantly, averted a season-high five game losing streak.
Every team has a low point. The Los Angeles Angels are hoping the past week was theirs.
After taking two of three from Tampa Bay, the Halos dropped a home-and-home series with the crosstown rival Dodgers before stumbling through a weekend series with Boston. The league’s most potent offense through the All-Star break has been limited to two runs or less four times since Aug. 5.
The Angels tagged Cy Young candidate Clayton Kershaw for three second-inning runs last Tuesday but couldn’t capitalize on numerous opportunities. Pujols’ solo shot in the eighth instilled brief hope, but the Dodgers walked off with the victory on David Freese throwing error.
A change of scenery didn’t work in the Angels’ favor. Hyun-Jin Ryu and former Halo Dan Haren dominated in their Angel Stadium outings; it wasn’t even close.
Offensive struggles continued into the weekend where the Angels went 0-11 with runners in scoring position and left 16 men on base in losses Friday and Sunday.
Josh Hamilton is 2-for-28 since last Monday, Erick Aybar is 4-for-28 in the same streak with a game-changing error that cost Richards’ a win, and the usually dependable Joe Smith surrender two runs Sunday afternoon; the most he’s allowed since April 15.
It’s was a disastrous week all-around.
Player of the week:
Richards’ is the starting rotation’s saving grace. After his stellar outing at Dodger Stadium, Richards overcame previous struggles against Boston- 8.44 ERA in four career games- to no-hit them through seven innings. Consecutive blunders from Aybar and Howie Kendrick directly led to a three-run inning.
No other Major League pitcher can say they’ve gone toe-for-toe with three Cy Young winner following the All-Star break. Richards faced Felix Hernandez, Max Scherzer, and Zack Greinke over the last three and a half weeks. He stood his ground, compiling 21 strikeouts, a 1.96 ERA in those outings.
Last Monday’s victory was icing on the cake.
Early reports indicated Skaggs would return sometime in September. The left-hander was 4-5 with a 4.30 ERA in 18 starts.
Grant Green is hitting and taking ground balls at the Angels’ Arizona complex but isn’t progressing as quickly as desired. The utility infielder went on the 15-day DL retroactive to July 15.
Relievers Mike Morin and Joe Thatcher hit the DL with foot-related injuries. Morin lacerated his left foot while walking on a St. Petersburg, Fla. beach while the team was in Tampa Bay and Thatcher sprained his left ankle. Thatcher expects to be out until mid-September.
Philadelphia makes their first visit to Angel Stadium for the first time since 2003. The Angels then head to Arlington, Tex. for a weekend series with the Rangers.