Learned thing #1: Same Ol’ Garrett Richards
This isn’t really something we learned so much as something we’ve been reminded of: Garrett Richards at his best is nigh-unhittable, but the Garrett Richards that shows up on most days has problems throwing strikes consistently from inning to inning, and from batter to batter. On Opening Day 2018, Richards was ineffectively wild, his slider wandering high and wide of the strike zone, without the usual sink that makes it such a devastating out pitch, especially with two strikes.
There were some positives. RIchards looks healthy, and that’s more important than anything else that we could expect. He threw 89 pitches in total, the most he’s thrown in one game since April 25, 2016, nearly two full years ago. His fastball sat comfortably in the mid-90s, and touched 97 with ease.
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In this game, unable to get swings and misses with his sinker, the opposing A’s were able to nickel-and-dime base hits off cheap and work counts on him — Oakland put at least one runner on base in each of his five innings. Richards was at the 50-pitch mark by just the third inning. Come the fifth inning, he couldn’t get Matt Joyce and Marcus Semien to bite on his stuff away. Working on Khris Davis with two outs and two on, he couldn’t get Davis to bite on a two-strike slider, and Davis hit the next pitch, a 97-MPH fastball, over the centerfield wall. Richards needs his slider to set up his fastball. He hadn’t been able to do that much in Spring Training, and he couldn’t do that today.