Richards declares himself to be '100 percent' after arduous rehab

Angels pitcher feels like his old self after strong start, first win

Richards declares himself to be '100 percent' after arduous rehab

ANAHEIM -- David Freese turned on a full-count, inside-corner fastball from Rangers reliever Keone Kela, lifted it deep into the left-center-field gap, watched it sail just beyond the Angel Stadium fence and immediately thought about Garrett Richards.

OK, almost immediately.

"The first thought was [heck] yeah," Freese said. "The second thought was G-Rich."

Freese's two-out, two-run homer came in the bottom of the seventh on Friday night. It gave the Angels a 3-2 lead and set Richards up to capture his first win in his first home start since suffering a ruptured patellar tendon on Aug. 20.

Freese recaps win, gets doused

"I was rounding the bases just fired up, thinking about him, trying to get that 'W' for him," Freese said of Richards, who qualified for it by allowing only two runs in seven innings.

"He looks good out there. Everybody sees that."

Richards, eight months removed from surgery to his left knee, has now made two starts this season. And Angels manager Mike Scioscia already sees the same guy from last year, the hard-throwing right-hander who was making a run at the American League Cy Young Award before an ill-fated jog to first base at Fenway Park.

"I don't see much difference," Scioscia said, a point Richards wholeheartedly agreed with.

"One hundred percent," Richards added. "I worked very hard over the offseason to get back to where I am now. For anybody that thought it wasn't going to be that easy, hard work goes a long way."

Richards mixed in his slider the second and third time through the order and flipped in four curveballs, but mostly attacked Rangers hitters with his devastating four-seam fastball. He hit 97 mph seven times and finished his outing with a rising, 95-mph fastball through the bat of Rougned Odor, his second consecutive punchout on his 98th pitch.

Richards struck out five, scattered three hits, walked three batters and gave up two runs in a third inning in which no ball left the infield. He began that third inning with back-to-back walks, both on borderline pitches, then proceeded to retire 12 of his next 14 batters.

The win came five days after Richards gave up four runs (three earned) in a tough-luck start against the Astros at Minute Maid Park. Start No. 2 was about "getting my timing and rhythm back down, throwing the ball up front, getting back to what I did last year."

"It was something that was going to take a little time for me to feel," Richards said, "but once I feel it, I know I can repeat it. It was only a matter of time."

Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.