ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — There was a lot of grumbling in the Los Angeles Angels’ clubhouse following Garrett Richards’ latest strong performance.
Richards won his sixth decision in seven starts and had a career-high 11 strikeouts Sunday, leading the surging Angels to a 6-1 victory over the Houston Astros and completing a four-game sweep that extended Los Angeles’ home winning streak to 10 games.
But when the pitchers and reserves for the AL All-Star team were announced after the game, Richards’ name wasn’t among them. He could still get the final spot on the squad through fan voting on the Internet.
“It’s a little disappointing,” Richards said. “There’s still a chance, and it’s an honor just to be considered. If it happens, it happens. But I’m more concerned with the second half of the season, to be honest. I’ll take a World Series over an All-Star game any day.”
Richards (10-2) allowed six hits over 7 1-3 innings, including an RBI single by Carlos Corporan in the seventh. The right-hander has a 1.45 ERA in his last seven outings and has allowed no more than four hits in six of them.
“It’s the same thing I’ve been doing all year — getting ahead of hitters with the fastball and breaking ball, putting guys away with two strikes, throwing quality strikes and just attacking guys,” Richards said. “I’m happy with the work I’ve put in so far, but the season’s only halfway over. I’ve had a pretty good first half. But more importantly, we’re playing good baseball as a team right now.”
Richards’ strikeout total was the highest by an Angels pitcher since June 18 last season, when Joe Blanton fanned 11 in a no-decision against Seattle at Anaheim.
“I think the sky’s the limit for Garrett,” pitching coach Mike Butcher said. “You look at the stuff, and he’s got undeniable stuff — a mid-90s fastball that cuts and sinks, a power slider that has great depth to it, good action and commands it in the zone very well. He’s got one of the better curveballs in the game and a changeup that is still developing — but he’s getting a feel for that, too.”
Albert Pujols drove in two runs with a bases-loaded single and Kole Calhoun homered, helping the Angels go 15 games over .500 for the first time since ending the 2012 season at 89-73. They swept a four-game set at home for the first time since July 2011 against Seattle and are 21-3 at the “Big A” since May 17 — their best 24-game stretch at home in franchise history.
“We’re playing good ball,” center fielder Mike Trout said. “We’re pitching well and our timely hitting’s been pretty good lately. We’re having great at-bats and not trying to do too much.”
Joe Thatcher, obtained in a trade from Arizona on Saturday, threw one pitch in his Angels debut and gave up a one-out single in the eighth by Jason Castro. But Mike Morin finished the inning with a diving catch of Jon Singleton’s popup after first baseman C. J. Cron collided with catcher Hank Conger to the right of the mound, knocking the ball out of Conger’s mitt.
“When it first went up into that tough sky, I just kept drifting and started creeping back a bit more than I should have,” Conger said. “Then I kind of heard C.J. at the last minute. I felt like I fell into a brick wall. I don’t like to give pitchers too much respect, fielding-wise, but I told Mike: `Nice catch.”‘
Collin McHugh (4-8) gave up three runs — two earned — and four hits through four innings before leaving with a broken nail on his middle finger. The rookie right-hander walked two and struck out four in his third start against the Angels this year, becoming the first pitcher in Astros history to get at least four strikeouts in each of his first 14 starts of a season.
The Angels loaded the bases in the third when McHugh gave up singles by Conger and Calhoun, and hit Trout on the left biceps with a first-pitch fastball. Pujols stroked a two-run single to left field to open the scoring.
Until that hit, the three-time NL MVP was 0 for 13 this season in bases-loaded situations. Trout then scored from second on a throwing error by second baseman Jose Altuve, who was trying to complete a double play on Josh Hamilton’s grounder to shortstop Marwin Gonzalez.
“We didn’t play well. But at the same time, the Angels played real well,” manager Bo Porter said. “We didn’t help ourselves. When you look at the number of strikeouts and the way we played these last four games, they pretty much took it to us in every aspect of the game.
“Right now we’re in a rut, and we have not played well. But nobody is going to feel sorry for you. It’s up to the men in this clubhouse. These are the guys that we have and those are the guys we’re going to run out there. It’s going to be up to us to rectify what it is we have going.”
Calhoun added his ninth homer in the seventh against David Martinez, who was pitching his third inning after getting recalled from Triple-A Oklahoma City. The Angels tacked on two more runs in the eighth against Chad Qualls.
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