Angels-Rangers Preview


Garrett Richards may not be going to the All-Star game, but he's more concerned with loftier achievements with the Los Angeles Angels.

The surging Angels are looking for Richards to continue his dominant stretch by beating the spiraling Texas Rangers again Friday night.

Richards (10-2, 2.71 ERA) is among the AL leaders in wins, ERA, strikeouts (119) and batting average against (.196), but he fell short of his first trip to an All-Star game Tuesday following a fan vote. However, he could still earn the honor as a replacement on the AL roster.

"There's still a chance, and it's an honor just to be considered," Richards said. "If it happens, it happens. But I'm more concerned with the second half of the season, to be honest. I'll take a World Series over an All-Star game any day."

The right-hander has looked every bit like one of the best pitchers in baseball lately, going 6-0 with a 1.45 ERA over his last seven starts. He has 55 strikeouts in 49 2-3 innings during that span while holding opponents to a .158 average.

He didn't show any signs of slowing down Sunday, collecting a career-high 11 strikeouts while yielding one run in 7 1-3 innings of a 6-1 win over Houston.

"I think the sky's the limit for Garrett," pitching coach Mike Butcher said. "You look at the stuff, and he's got undeniable stuff - a mid-90s fastball that cuts and sinks, a power slider that has great depth to it, good action and commands it in the zone very well. He's got one of the better curveballs in the game and a changeup that is still developing - but he's getting a feel for that, too."

Richards has won four consecutive starts, a run that began against the Rangers on June 20 when he allowed one run and four hits with seven strikeouts in six innings of a 7-3 win.

The Angels (54-37) have won four straight over Texas after opening this four-game set by scoring 13 runs in the first three innings, cruising to a 15-6 victory while matching their season high of 17 hits. Los Angeles is batting .298 while winning 16 of 20.

Mike Trout had four hits and four RBIs - three on his team-leading 21st homer. The center fielder, voted to start the All-Star game, has a .381 average with 23 RBIs in 23 games at Arlington.

The Rangers (38-54) own their worst record at this point in a season since 2003, thanks to a 3-19 stretch that has dropped them into the AL West cellar.

That was enough for manager Ron Washington to address his team.

"That you don't stop fighting. You don't give in to adversity. The game of baseball is full of it. You don't give in to it," he said. "The only people that can make a change and make a difference is my guys."

The rotation has a 7.40 ERA and 3-15 record over the past 22 games, and Nick Tepesch (3-4, 4.29) has alternated good and bad efforts over his past five outings. That stretch includes a 7.71 ERA in three defeats, while tossing 13 2-3 scoreless innings in the two Rangers wins - earning one victory himself.

The right-hander was hammered for five runs in the opening inning Sunday before allowing one more over the next five in an 8-4 defeat to the New York Mets.