ANAHEIM, Calif. -- As pennant races heat up across baseball, the Los Angeles Angels and Toronto Blue Jays -- two teams with high expectations this season -- found themselves playing each other Thursday night for little more than pride.
Angels pitcher Garrett Richards readily admitted his start Thursday and his starts to come are a chance to prove himself to the team as it looks to next year and beyond. He didn't disappoint, giving up two runs and four hits in seven innings to help lift the Angels to an 8-2 win at Angel Stadium.
"I'm trying to make the most of my opportunity right now," said Richards, who was making his second start since taking Joe Blanton's place in the rotation. "I've had a handful of starts over the last couple years, and now they've put me in a position where it's an opportunity. That's how I look at it, an opportunity."
Richards got help from the offense, which had 10 hits in the first three innings against Blue Jays starter Josh Johnson (1-8) to take a 7-0 lead. The Angels had 12 hits in all, including Mark Trumbo's team-leading 24th home run, three RBIs from J.B. Shuck and two hits and two runs each from Kole Calhoun and Erick Aybar.
The Angels ended their losing streak at six games, while Johnson's losing streak continued. The Blue Jays starter has now lost six consecutive starts, Thursday's being the worst of them. Johnson gave up seven runs (six earned) on 10 hits and two walks in 2 1/3 innings.
"I don't know what to tell you ... we're searching for answers, he's searching for answers, I got nothing more than that," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "He's one of our guys, man. He works as hard as anybody. It's a cruel business. He's one of the guys you root for. He's got that personality. He's a good guy, you feel for guys like that. He's had a lot of success at this level, (but) he's rock bottom right now."
The Angels jumped all over Johnson from the outset and didn't let up. They took a 4-0 lead with five hits in the first inning, including a two-run homer by Trumbo. The Angels made it 5-0 in the second on Josh Hamilton's sacrifice fly, and they added two more runs on four hits in the third for a 7-0 lead. The Blue Jays' defense didn't help much Johnson, committing two errors in the first three innings.
Sparked by Colby Rasmus' double, the Blue Jays scored twice in the fifth inning, but otherwise they never threatened to put much of a dent in the Angels' lead.
"I felt I probably could have controlled counts better tonight," Richards said. "They're an aggressive offensive team. I knew if I just made my pitches I'd be OK."
While both teams do their best to avoid looking at the standings, both know there is a lot of baseball left to play.
"Every day, the starting pitcher wants to be the guy to get the team back on track," Richards said. "This is a fighting club; we're definitely not giving up as a team. We still have two months left in the season, and we're going to fight to the end."
NOTES: Blue Jays LF Melky Cabrera was placed on the disabled list after the game because of left knee irritation. RHP Neil Wagner will be called up to take Cabrera's spot on the roster and will join the team Friday in Anaheim. ... Angels 1B/DH Albert Pujols, who will wear a walking boot for the next three weeks while he rehabs from a torn plantar fascia in his left foot, hasn't ruled out returning later this season. Pujols won't have surgery but isn't expected back until late September, at the earliest. Considering the Angels aren't in contention, the club likely will discourage Pujols from playing again this year. ... Angels OF Mike Trout led the majors in July with an on-base percentage of .476 and an on-base-plus-slugging percentage of 1.108. He was the only player in the American League to reach base in every game during July. ... Blue Jays RHP Steve Delabar has struck out each of the past six batters he's faced and seven of the last eight overall. He leads American League relievers with 72 strikeouts (in 48 2/3 innings). ... Blue Jays RHP Dustin McGowan was placed on the disabled list, retroactive to July 30, because of a right oblique strain. RHP Sergio Santos was activated from the DL after recovering from a strained right forearm.