Richards throttles Mariners for first big league win

Richards throttles Mariners for first big league win

Richards throttles Mariners for first big league win
ANAHEIM -- Garrett Richards was the victim of a numbers game back in Spring Training. No matter how well he pitched -- and he pitched very well -- the 24-year-old had little chance of cracking the Angels' Opening Day rotation. Not with Jered Weaver, Dan Haren, C.J. Wilson and Ervin Santana already on it, and not if Jerome Williams -- six years Richards' senior and very good down the stretch last year -- was in any way healthy.

On Tuesday night, though, Richards provided a glimpse of how well his electric right arm can play at this level.

He hurled seven innings of one-run ball, struck out eight, and retired 12 of 13 at one point, leading the Angels to a 6-1 victory over the Mariners at Angel Stadium.

In the process, he earned his first Major League win.

"It feels great; it doesn't feel real right now," said Richards, who was getting the game ball signed by his teammates as he spoke. "It's one of those things that I'll recognize the next day. It's nice to get that first one out of the way. I couldn't ask anymore of the guys, to put up enough runs to make my job a lot easier. Credit to them."

Credit to Mark Trumbo, who performed a complete 180 in 24 hours.

The Angels slugger went 0-for-5 with four strikeouts in Monday night's defeat -- the tail end of back-to-back losses for his club -- to put him at 1-for-16 in his first four games since the end of an exceptional May. But he went into Tuesday night's game with a concerted effort to shorten up a swing that had grown too long and keep things simple in the batter's box.

Then he hit two massive homers to center field (representing his first career multihomer game), tied an Angels season-high with four RBIs and notched his second four-hit game of the season to put his batting average at .337, which ranks third in the American League.

Trumbo combined with Torii Hunter for back-to-back homers in the second inning -- the first time the Angels had done that all year -- and led an offense that torched Mariners righty Blake Beavan for six runs on 10 hits in the first five innings.

"It's a strange game," said Trumbo, who leads the Angels with 12 homers. "Yesterday, statistically, was the worst game I've ever played. And today would probably take the cake for the best game I've ever played. Strange."

Strange can also qualify for Richards, who posted a 6.76 ERA and walked 23 batters through his last six Triple-A starts before getting called up to replace the injured Weaver, then dominated at the highest level.

Some of that may be attributed to the fact he pitched only one inning of relief against the Mariners before Tuesday night.

"That's real," Mariners skipper Eric Wedge said. "I think the pitcher always has the advantage when an offensive club hasn't seen him."

But Richards will point mostly to good command of his pitches and an aggressive approach within the strike zone, which for some reason got away from him during his last month in the Minors.

"In Triple-A, I didn't feel like I didn't have command, I just felt like I was nibbling just a little bit too much," said Richards, who walked two batters, scattered four hits and threw 110 pitches in his first Major League start of 2012. "Tonight, I just trusted my stuff and went after guys."

Coming off a 2011 that saw him post a 5.79 ERA in seven games (three starts) down the stretch for the Angels, Richards went into this season as the No. 2-ranked player in the Angels' farm system, then backed it up with a 3.54 ERA and a 1.38 WHIP in 20 1/3 innings of Cactus League play.

But the numbers game played unfavorably to Richards, who was sent down because there were no spots left, he had options and he's too good to be confined to the bullpen.

Asked if that fueled him in Tuesday's start, Richards said simply: "Absolutely."

"I try not to think about that kind of stuff, but yeah, it's got to be in the back of your head," Richards admitted. "They had a plan, [Mike] Scioscia's the manager, he's had success, so nobody can really question what he does."

The numbers don't seem to play favorably to Richards right now, either. Weaver should be back before the end of the month, Williams has been pitching well and though Santana has struggled, he's out of options and makes too much money to be relegated to long relief this early in the season.

Richards knows that. Nonetheless, he's here to make a statement.

"I'm up here to help these guys win," Richards said, "but I'm also up here to show guys what I can do."

Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for Read his columns and 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.