Angels designated hitter Kendrys Morales caps a five-run rally in the fourth… (Jeff Gross / Getty Images )
Not even two weeks ago, Mike Scioscia was fielding questions about the difficulty of choosing between effective right-handers Garrett Richards and Jerome Williams as the fifth starter in a deep and talented rotation.
“Believe me,” the Angels manager said on June 24, “we're not going to lament having six starting pitchers who are throwing the ball well when most teams are looking for three.”
Oh, how Scioscia would love to have three quality starters right now. Richards was throttled for seven runs in 41/3 innings Thursday night, the team's third shoddy start in three days, but the offense bailed him out in a 9-7 come-from-behind victory over the Baltimore Orioles in Angel Stadium.
Kendrys Morales capped a five-run fourth inning with a two-run, two-out single, and five relievers — LaTroy Hawkins, Kevin Jepsen, Jason Isringhausen, Scott Downs and Ernesto Frieri (11th save) — combined for 42/3 scoreless innings to help the Angels pull to within four games of Texas in the American League West.
Richards, who has given up 17 runs — 12 earned — in 82/3 innings of his last two starts and won't pitch again before the All-Star break, was optioned to triple-A Salt Lake after the game so the Angels can add an arm to a bullpen that has combined to throw 15 innings in the last three games.
“Garret has such a good, live arm, but he's struggling with his command,” Scioscia said. “Our length from our starting pitchers during the last road trip was short, and we need to get a fresh arm here this weekend.”
With struggling right-hander Dan Haren (6-8, 4.86 earned run average) joining Williams on the disabled list Thursday, unreliable right-hander Ervin Santana (4-9, 5.75 ERA) off to an awful start and Richards being cuffed around, the Angels are down to two dependable starters, Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson, who have combined to go 18-5 with a 2.24 ERA.
The rest of the rotation is 18-23 with a 4.92 ERA.
“The pitchers picked us up for the first few weeks of the season,” right fielder Torii Hunter said. “Now, it's our turn to pick those guys up.”
Thursday night, they did some heavy lifting.
The Orioles racked up 10 hits against Richards, scoring three runs in a second inning that featured consecutive homers by Mark Reynolds and Ryan Flaherty and three in a fourth inning that was capped by Matt Wieters' three-run homer.
But the Angels scored once in the first (Morales' two-out RBI single), twice in the second (Erick Aybars' RBI single, Mike Trout's sacrifice fly) and batted around during a five-run fourth that turned a 7-3 deficit into an 8-7 lead.
Howie Kendrick (single), Trout (sacrifice fly) and Hunter (single) knocked in runs, and Morales capped the fourth-inning rally with his big opposite-field hit.
The Angels added a run in the sixth when Trout walked, stole second and third, and scored on Wieters' throwing error. Trout pushed his stolen base total to 26.