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Richard Justice

Richards a loss, but Halos have all the pieces

Angels still a postseason contender if guys step up after righty goes down

Richards a loss, but Halos have all the pieces play video for Richards a loss, but Halos have all the pieces

There's no way to sugarcoat what the loss of Garrett Richards means to the Angels. On Wednesday, he went down while covering first base in the second inning against the Red Sox, and he was diagnosed Thursday with torn patella tendon in his left knee, which will require surgery.

With the injury's six- to nine-month recovery period, Richards is done for the season. It's a punch to the gut, one that will shake the team both in the clubhouse and on the mound.

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In Richards' third big league season, he had evolved from an erratic, hard-throwing kid to a polished top-of-the-rotation starter. The Angels are 19-7 when he gets the ball, and his name is dotted across the American League leaderboard in strikeouts, innings, etc.

When the Angels looked toward October, they could envision Richards matching up nicely against David Price, Jon Lester or any of the other AL aces. In the aftermath of his injury, the math suddenly changes for the Halos.

What doesn't change is the expectations, and that's the important thing to remember in all of this. Once the Angels get past the sadness that they feel for Richards, they'll have to gather themselves and move on.

The Halos still have enough to finish the deal. That's what they've got to convince themselves. They lost some of their margin for error when Tyler Skaggs had Tommy John surgery in early August, and now they've got even less.

This means they'll lean on Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson more than ever and that a veteran like Randy Wolf, who is biding his time at Triple-A, could end up playing a vital role.

General manager Jerry Dipoto will be checking his trade options, but unless he sees, say, Bartolo Colon as an upgrade, that may not happen.

Good teams know it's never about one guy, regardless of his talent. They also believe they can overcome almost anything that's thrown at them. It's a cliche, but on a good club, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Down two runs in the sixth? Let's go, fellas.

The Angels have already gotten significant contributions from Matt Shoemaker, Kole Calhoun, Collin Cowgill, Mike Morin, Cory Rasmus and others who aren't yet household names. This is what good teams do.

Now, there will have to be someone else. Does anyone doubt the Angels will be playing in October? Despite the loss, this is still a really good baseball team.

Dipoto accumulated veteran rotation depth to be prepared in case the worst happened. So this injury could be the opportunity Wolf has been looking for, one more chance to be an October difference-maker.

Chris Volstad and Wade LeBlanc are also options. Between them, they've made 191 big league starts. And there's 24-year-old Michael Roth, a soft-tossing lefty who has nice numbers at Double-A.

This isn't to minimize the loss of Richards. It's huge. It definitely impacts the postseason race. The Angels are a little less imposing than they were 24 hours ago. But this can still be a special season for the Halos.

Angels manager Mike Scioscia's comments were absolutely perfect after the game. He spoke only of Richards and how far he'd come this season and how important he was to the fabric of the team.

Richards was a first-round Draft pick of the Angels in 2009, and he had climbed through the system and steadily improved. He was Mike Trout's roommate in the Minor Leagues. In other words, Richards was a member of the family, and to have that locker suddenly empty is a loss that can't be quantified.

That's why it's some comfort to have Scioscia in the corner office. He has seen everything. Scioscia is an emotional rock. Because of him -- and because of Trout, Albert Pujols and the guys who've helped get the Angels this far -- you'd be making a mistake to discount the Halos.

Regardless of how the Angels feel today, they've got one more game in Boston, and then they're off to Oakland with first place in the AL West on the line. On Friday, it's Hector Santiago vs. Sonny Gray. Game on.

The A's and Angels play 10 more times this season, including seven games before Labor Day. The AL West probably won't be decided by then, but these games may have the look and feel of October.

The Angels have had a couple of bitterly disappointing seasons in their quest to get back to October. Owner Arte Moreno has shelled out big bucks for Pujols, Josh Hamilton and Wilson. Dipoto has shaped the roster nicely. And in Scioscia, the Halos have someone who is among the most respected and accomplished men in the game.

On tough days like this, the Angels will have to turn the focus from what they've lost to what they still have. They've got enough.

Richard Justice is a columnist for MLB.com. Read his blog, Justice4U. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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