Richards struggles from get-go vs. Yanks

Richards struggles from get-go vs. Yanks

NEW YORK -- It was right around this time last season when Garrett Richards faced one of his biggest tests as a professional. On May 30, 2014, he gave up five runs and recorded only two outs in Oakland, then called the outing "embarrassing" and vowed not to let it ruin his progress. He dominated from there, going 9-2 with a 1.79 ERA over his next 14 starts before sustaining a season-ending knee injury.

The Angels left Yankee Stadium on Saturday night hopeful of a similar turnaround, after watching Richards give up six runs and leave after just two-thirds of an inning in an 8-2 loss.

"I can't hang my head on this," Richards said after the Angels' fourth loss in a row. "I know what I bring to the table. Tonight wasn't my night. I made some good pitches, they put some good swings on the ball, a couple found holes. It is what it is."

It was a little more than that, though.

The Yankees sent 11 men to the plate in the bottom of the first, and eight of them reached. There were two walks, a wild pitch, a deep sacrifice fly by Mark Teixeira, a two-run homer by Brian McCann and a two-run single by Brett Gardner. Thirty-seven pitches into his 10th start of the season, Richards watched his ERA jump from 3.26 to 4.14.

"Unfortunately, Garrett never got on track," manager Mike Scioscia said. "Just commanding counts, the number of pitches he had to throw behind in the count, the walks. We're going to turn the page on this one, for sure. I know Garrett will."

Six starts into his return from surgery to repair a ruptured left patellar tendon, Richards had an ERA of 2.29, and opposing hitters were batting just .169. In the three previous starts heading into Saturday, though, he allowed 13 runs (11 earned) on 23 hits and seven walks in 18 2/3 innings. And overall, his strikeout-to-walk ratio has gone from 3.22 in 2014 to 1.96 in 2015.

"I'm going through a rough patch," he said. "It is what it is. I'm not going to sit here and make excuses. It's baseball. This is the big leagues."

If Johnny Giavotella makes the play on a rocket short hop off the bat of Chase Headley, or if Carlos Perez can corral the Richards fastball that went for a run-scoring wild pitch, or if Albert Pujols doesn't try to throw behind the runner after fielding Stephen Drew's grounder, perhaps the first inning goes a little bit differently.

But Richards dug his own hole, and now, once again, it'll be up to him to dig his way out.

"He's too good a pitcher not to find it," Scioscia said. "He hasn't been that far off. Tonight was just ... I have no other words for it, it was tough."

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