Angels-Rangers Preview

The Associated Press

The Los Angeles Angels are dominating the Texas Rangers, and Garrett Richards has been a big part of that success.

Richards goes for a fourth win in as many starts this season against the AL-worst Rangers on Friday night.

Los Angeles (70-49) has won seven straight meetings with Texas (47-74), its longest run in the series since reeling off eight in a row from 2005-06.

The Angels' rotation has been the biggest key during the seven-game streak, posting a 2.70 ERA, and Richards (12-4, 2.54 ERA) has been even better by compiling a 1.89 ERA with 24 strikeouts in 19 innings while winning all three starts.

The right-hander was superb in Arlington on July 11, striking out eight and scattering five hits in seven innings of a 3-0 victory. That's part of his six-start stretch on the road during which he's gone 4-1 with a 1.40 ERA, a .160 opponents' batting average and 49 strikeouts in 45 innings.

"He should've been an All-Star," first baseman Albert Pujols told MLB's official website, "and I'm pretty sure he's going to have many opportunities.

"I don't think he's the best in the league yet - I mean you have guys like (Seattle's Felix Hernandez) - but he's pretty close, and I don't think it'll be long until this guy has a Cy Young in his hand."

Richards certainly resembled that lofty status Saturday against Boston. He carried a no-hitter into the seventh, but he left with one out after allowing three runs in a 5-4, 19-inning victory.

"Even after the three-run inning, it's a great performance," manager Mike Scioscia said.

Los Angeles swept a two-game set with Philadelphia, taking the finale 4-3 on Wednesday behind a three-run sixth inning.

Pujols is hitting .382 (13 for 34) with six RBIs in nine season meetings with the Rangers, going 8 for 17 while driving in four during a four-game road sweep last month.

Angels catcher Hank Conger is mired in a 2-for-25 skid over his last 10 games, but he's 7 for 16 with three doubles in five games versus Texas.

The Rangers are tied with Colorado for the worst record in baseball, thanks in large part to a 4-14 record in their last 18 home games - a stretch that includes a 7.88 ERA from the rotation.

The starters compiled an 8.06 ERA while dropping three of four games with Tampa Bay, losing 6-3 on Thursday.

Giving the ball to rookie Nick Martinez (2-8, 5.22) may not help since he has a 12.91 ERA during a four-start home losing streak. However, he was solid at Houston on Sunday, yielding two runs in five innings of a 6-2 victory, his first since May 24.

The right-hander was 0-2 with a 6.19 ERA in three starts since returning from a three-week layoff due to left side discomfort.

"If you took Nick Martinez to the minor leagues, he would dominate," manager Ron Washington said. "He's making strides, it's just hard to see it up here. Up here it's results-oriented. It's all about numbers. He just has to figure it out. He's got the pitches. He has to learn how to use them."

Martinez had one of his best starts of the season June 21 against the Angels. He gave up two runs and three hits over seven-plus innings in a 3-2 loss in 10.

What to Read Next