Another step forward for Garrett Richards …
Yeah, the Angels lost — 2-1 on a walk-off — but it’s been all about the future for a long time now.
And Garrett Richards continues to be a reason for optimism in 2014.
On Tuesday night, he limited the A’s — with their .280 batting average and 55 homers in their previous 37 games — to just one run in seven-plus innings, putting his ERA at 2.90 in 11 starts since taking Joe Blanton‘s spot in the rotation. He scattered seven hits, walked two, struck out six and made a pitch every time he really needed to.
With Brandon Moss on second after a two-out, RBI ground-rule double in the first, he used a cutter to force Yoenis Cespedes into a groundout. With men on first and second and two outs in the fourth, he got Alberto Callaspo to chase a 3-2 slider in the dirt for a punchout. With runners on the corners and two outs in the fifth, he struck eventual hero Josh Donaldson out with a cutter. And after giving up a leadoff double to Moss in the sixth, he retired Cespedes, Josh Reddick and Callaspo in order to keep the score knotted at 1.
The A’s had eight at-bats with runners in scoring position against the 25-year-old Richards, and they got only one hit.
“I’m just worried about the next pitch and one pitch at a time,” Richards said of his approach with runners in scoring position. “Just trying to execute pitches. I don’t really get discouraged when guys get on base. I believe in myself and know that I can work through it.”
Angels manager Mike Scioscia was asked if he’s noticed a “tougher” Richards this season, particularly in his third stint as a Major League starter.
“I don’t think ‘tough’ is the right word,” Scioscia said. “He’s maturing. He was tough last year. He goes after guys. But the confidence keeps building as you have success. He understands if a guy gets on, he walks a guy, if they find a hole, he can still make pitches and minimize damage and get out of a jam. He gave up a two-out hit to Moss in the first and outside of that, when guys were in scoring position, he made pitches. It’s not so much about him being tough; its his confidence level.”
And his repertoire.
Richards relies heavily on his fastball-slider mix and goes from there. Today, he scrapped his changeup — even though it felt good coming out of his hand in the bullpen — and threw a lot more breaking balls than usual. Per pitchF/X, 11 percent of Richards’ pitches (11 of 100) were that nasty, 12-to-6, mostly-high-70s breaking ball — and a lot of them came in critical situations. Heading in, only 3.7 percent of his pitches this season had been curveballs.
Just another example of how Richards continues to evolve.
“I feel like I made some major strides this year in a positive way,” Richards said. “That comes with just getting experience up here and working with [pitching coach Mike Butcher]. I feel good about where I’m at right now.”