Monday, July 07, 2014
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Behind Richards, Angels cap sweep of Astros

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[July 07, 2014]  ANAHEIM, Calif. -- With the All-Star Game rosters being revealed Sunday, the Los Angeles Angels' Garrett Richards made a last-minute case for inclusion.

The right-hander amassed a career-high 11 strikeouts in 7 1/3 innings to lead the Angels to a 6-1 victory over the Houston Astros on Sunday in front of 33,552 at Angel Stadium. The Angels swept the four-game series.

Richards (10-2) permitted one run, one walk and six hits as the Angels won their fourth consecutive game and their ninth in a row at home.

"Garrett's definitely making a name for himself in the baseball world," Los Angeles manager Mike Scioscia said. "As far as pure stuff and as far as being able to throw the ball with velocity and movement, and spin the ball, he's in the top four or five in our league."

Catcher Hank Conger even devised a nickname for Richards' slider.

"It's The Devastator, definitely," Conger said. "It's a tough pitch. It comes out late and it just has a good snap on it.

"With a lot of guys' sliders, you see a big, loopy thing coming out of the hand. But what makes his so effective is that it comes out of the same fastball plane."

Yet Richards' performance proved insufficient to get him on the American League's All-Star pitching staff outright.

"It is what it is," said Richards, who is on the Final Vote online ballot as one of five candidates for the last place on the AL All-Star team. "It's a little disappointing, but I'm more concerned with the team's record. I'll take a World Series over an All-Star Game any day."

The Astros' losing streak reached seven games, matching their longest this season.

"They took it to us in every aspect of the game," Houston manager Bo Porter said. "We didn't help ourselves when you look at the strikeouts and the way we played these last four games."

Right fielder Kole Calhoun led the Angels' offense. Calhoun went 3-for-3, hit a home run and scored two runs.

The Angels built a 3-0 lead in the bottom of the third inning against right-hander Collin McHugh on three hits, a sacrifice, a hit batter and an error.

Designated hitter Albert Pujols lined a single past the glove of Astros third baseman Matt Dominguez to bring Conger and Calhoun home. Pujols moved into a tie for 41st in career RBIs with Hall of Famer Willie McCovey. Both have 1,555 RBIs.

Left fielder Josh Hamilton, the next batter, hit a grounder to shortstop Marwin Gonzalez, who flipped to second baseman Jose Altuve to record the forceout at second base. Altuve caught Gonzalez's flip barehanded and made an errant throw past first baseman Jon Singleton, allowing Mike Trout to score.

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The Astros broke the shutout in the seventh. Center fielder Alex Presley hit a double down the right field line and came home on a line-drive single by catcher Carlos Corporan. Los Angeles retrieved that run on Calhoun's ninth homer, a solo drive into the right field stands.

Right-hander Mike Morin's alert fielding saved the Angels in the top of eighth, when Conger and first baseman C.J. Cron had trouble finding Singleton's pop fly in the sun. Conger tried to make the catch, but Cron bumped him from behind, dislodging the ball. However, Morin dived to his left to make a one-handed catch that ended the inning.

The Angels ended the scoring in the bottom of the eighth by combining two hits, a walk, a stolen base and an error into two runs. Hamilton scored when Corporan threw the ball into center field as shortstop Erick Aybar was stealing second base. Aybar moved to third on the overthrow came home on a fielder's choice from second baseman Howie Kendrick.

McHugh (4-8) lost his fifth consecutive decision and left the game after four innings when the fingernail on his right middle finger pulled away from the skin. The right-hander allowed three runs (two earned), four hits, two walks and a hit batter while striking out four.

NOTES: Houston 2B Jose Altuve leads the major leagues with 122 hits, and he tops the American League with a .337 average and 38 stolen bases. ... The Astros recalled RHP David Martinez from Triple-A Oklahoma City and optioned OF Domingo Santana to the same club. ... The Astros' Enrique Hernandez made his second start in left field. Hernandez, recalled Tuesday from Triple-A Oklahoma City, played twice at shortstop and second base and served as a designated hitter in his previous five games. ... Los Angeles 3B David Freese did not make the starting lineup for the second consecutive game because of a sore right shin. ... The Angels activated RHP Fernando Salas from the disabled list and optioned LHP Michael Roth to Double-A Arkansas. ... Angels DH Albert Pujols needs one home run to reach 512 in his career, which would match the totals for Hall of Famers Ernie Banks and Eddie Mathews. ... Los Angeles RHP Garrett Richards is holding opposing batters to a .196 average, which leads the American League.

[ 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.]

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