Moving to 7-2 with his 2.79 ERA -- eighth-best in the American League -- Richards held the Rangers to one run over six innings. Is the Midsummer Classic in Minnesota on his mind yet?
"Obviously, I want to be there," Richards said. "But that's out of my control. I can only control what I do every fifth day. You hear about it, but you try not to get caught up in it."
A phone call from pitching coach Mike Butcher over the winter delivered the message Richards longed to hear after spending 2013 in a variety of roles.
"Butch called me in the offseason and said I was going to make 33 starts this season," Richards said. "It's all I needed to hear. I got a job. I don't have to worry about going up and down [from Salt Lake to Anaheim]. It was a big relief for them just to give me a job."
While Richards was making the pitches he needed to frustrate the Rangers, his offense was making it rough on former Angels All-Star Joe Saunders, who fell to 0-3 with the loss.
C.J. Cron, happy to get a start as designated hitter with a lefty on the mound, unloaded an opposite-field homer in the third to get the Angels even after the Rangers had manufactured a run in the top half of the inning.
Two Angels runs in the fourth inning were unearned when Brad Snyder -- a career outfielder new to first base -- threw wildly on Erick Aybar's grounder to allow Josh Hamilton and Howie Kendrick to score. Kendrick, who'd doubled behind Hamilton's walk, hustled home from second as Snyder's throw got past catcher Robinson Chirinos. David Freese's two-out single scored Aybar.
"I just think he panicked," Rangers manager Ron Washington said of Snyder. "I think he had the guy at the plate real easily. I'm almost certain if he had more experience doing something like that, it would have been different."
A four-run fifth gave Richards some breathing room. After Saunders walked Mike Trout and Albert Pujols to open the inning, Hamilton's RBI single cashed in Trout.
Aybar lashed a single to center for another run, his 38th RBI of a stellar season. Freese's second RBI single closed the book on Saunders: 4 2/3 innings, 10 hits, seven runs (four earned), three walks, three strikeouts.
"Honestly, it was kind of a battle from pitch one," Saunders said. "I felt like I was just a tick off all night long."
Richards needed a career-high 119 pitches to get through his six innings, walking three while giving up four hits, all singles.
"He had to work for it," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said.
Richards has allowed just two homers in 93 2/3 innings and is eighth in the AL with 94 strikeouts, one more than teammate C.J. Wilson.
"His fastball goes three different ways -- it cuts, sinks and goes away from you," the Rangers' Snyder said.
Calling Richards "effectively wild," Washington was impressed with his tools. "He threw balls all over the place. Then he'd make a pitch. This guy has a tremendous arm."
Scioscia has watched Richards -- taken in the Angels' remarkable 2009 First-Year Player Draft along with Trout and Tyler Skaggs -- mature and figure out how to take full advantage of his multiple talents.
"The evolution of a pitcher for a guy who's raw with a good arm, some guys take time," Scioscia said. "Other guys run with it. With Garrett, it took some time knowing how good his stuff is. Where his confidence is now, hopefully it will remain at a high level a long time."
The only run allowed by Richards came when Leonys Martin walked with two down in the third, stole second, took third on a wild pitch and scored on Elvis Andrus' single.
Michael Choice's eighth homer opened the seventh against Angels reliever Mike Morin, who got a great play from Aybar to help him escape, leaving two men stranded.
"Whether he gets selected to the All-Star team or not," Scioscia said when asked about Aybar, "he's an All-Star."
Kevin Jepsen quelled a disturbance Texas created against Cory Rasmus with a walk and Snyder's double opening the eighth. Jepsen got the job done, holding the Rangers to one run by getting three outs on the ground with Aybar taking care of the last two on Luis Sardinas' double-play grounder.
Joe Smith closed out the Rangers with a perfect ninth inning.
Scioscia lifted Pujols after five innings with back stiffness.