All of a sudden the Angels have way too much great pitching. On the heels of Ervin Santana's one-hitter, Garrett Richards spun a little magic of his own by shutting out the D'Backs for eight innings before giving way to Ernesto Frieri.
For the Angels, the timing is great. Instead of having to make the awkward decision of figuring out whether or not Richards needs to replace Santana in the rotation, they can now safely keep Ervin where he is but know that Richards, after three strong starts, is waiting in the wings should Santana falter again. Being pitching rich in the rotation is never the kind of problem one complains about.
For Richards, this was just a brilliant display of what he was capable of. He more than atoned for his wildness last time out by throwing first pitch strikes to almost every hitter. From there, he let his stuff do the rest. His slider was sharp, giving him a killer swing-and-miss pitch, and his fastball was strong from start to finish as Garrett was still lighting up the radar gun at 96 mph repeatedly in the eighth inning. That's all he needed. Heck, he never even dusted off his changeup or curve in the game because his four-seamer, two-seamer and slider were all working so well.
And he dominated like this despite struggling with his command at times, and I mean that as a compliment. He walked four and hit a batter in the game, but there were also several pitches where his fastball missed Conger's target by feet, not inches. Yet, he still limited Arizona to no runs on four hits. That is true testament to how dominating his stuff can be when it is working (and perhaps a smaller testament to how futile the Arizona lineup has been at times this year).
Even with as good as Garrett was though, this will be the last we see of him for awhile with Weaver set to return from the DL this next series. But unlike last season, we'll all be eager for Richards to return.
- Remember that heat map I linked to the other day that showed how Mike Trout had been murdering inside pitches? Yeah, the league must've see in too. As has been the case most of the last week, Ian Kennedy worked Trout almost exclusively away. The one pitch he missed inside on, Mike drilled off the left field wall. Still, he'll have to keep working to adjust to being pitched away now, though I doubt it will be too much of a problem.
- Erick Aybar had one of the wimpiest 3-for-3's you'll see. A bunt single, a nice line drive single then a "double" down the line because Justin Upton lost the ball in the sun. But hey, with Aybar this season, we should just take what we should get, right?
- I don't know if I just never noticed before, but Hank Conger is very animated behind the plate. He loves tapping glove in the dirt when he wants it low, standing up from his squat when he wants it high, lots of gesturing in general. There was even once where he set up outside but stuck his leg out and tapped his heel inside to mimic tapping his glove and perhaps fool the hitter. I don't know if I like all that, but at least he is trying back there.
- Speaking of which, I hope you enjoyed the Hank Conger era, because it just ended. He wasn't up for long and wasn't given much of a chance, nor did he do much with what he was given, but in any event, Conger was optioned to the minors after the game, presumably because Bobby Wilson will be activated. They easily could've optioned John Hester, but chose not to do so, which speaks volumes of what the front office thinks about Conger's future. Maybe I am reading too much into it, but I would not be the least bit surprised if Hank gets heavily shopped at the trade deadline
Great work, kid! Now, go back to your hotel, pack your bags and catch the next flight to Salt Lake. Maybe you and Conger can carpool to the airport.
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I like that Richards was able to show multiple pitches during his stay at the major league level. I'm not averse to the idea of sending him to the minors to continue to refine his game while we see if Santana can rebuild his stock by the trade deadline, though. Usually I'd say you could make a better trade in the off-season but with him, if he's performing a little better, maybe we can get something significant for him from some pitching-desperate and playoff-hopeful team and, maybe, a little JeDi mind trickery. As inconsistent as Santana has proven himself over his career I'm not sure we're worse off with Richards over Santana at this point, even if Sosh loves his veterans.
A little semi-controlled wildness by Richards isn't necessarily a bad thing and worked pretty well for Koufax and Ryan. It was questionable for both of those guys if they could be *ever* be successful because neither could find the plate early on in their careers. In fact, their pitches found several hitters. A little fear of a misdirected 96mph heater might not be such a bad thing. Remember, "Hit the mascot."
Aw, man. Where did the hitting go? AGAIN. If the Angels had a real hitting coach he'd have noticed the problem, especially with Trout, and corrected it. (Disclaimer: Just getting the reactionary jump on those in cognitive dissonance over how often the Angels don't hit, even with Mickey Hatcher gone.)
And, Mr. ™, I got a little international exposure for MWaH for a few hours on the home page of Gentlemint yesterday when I pinned it as "THE Angels Blog To Follow!" You're welcome.