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MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL

Garrett Richards makes an impression in Angels' 2-0 victory

He pitches eight scoreless innings against Arizona in what could be his last replacement start for ace Jered Weaver. Albert Pujols hits his 10th home run and makes two key contributions on defense.

June 17, 2012|By Lance Pugmire
  • Angels starter Garrett Richards delivers during the second inning of the Angels' victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks on Sunday afternoon.
Angels starter Garrett Richards delivers during the second inning of the… (Chris Carlson / Associated…)

Garrett Richards' expiration date in Anaheim might be coming this week, but the rookie right-hander was by no means sour Sunday.

Richards contributed eight scoreless innings in what could have been his final replacement start for ace Jered Weaver, helping the American League's leading pitching staff claim its league-best ninth shutout and give the Angels a second straight 2-0 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks.

"I'm up here to take advantage of my opportunities," Richards (2-0) said after limiting the Diamondbacks to four hits. "These guys in the front office are smart, and I'm sure they'll make a good decision.

"I showed them what I can do."

Angels closer Ernesto Frieri picked up his seventh save following a leadoff walk by Richards to open the ninth inning.

Richards' greatest helper was first baseman Albert Pujols, who swatted his 10th home run of the season against Arizona's Ian Kennedy (5-7) in the fourth inning, and made a key juggling catch of a Justin Upton popup by the first base camera well with two runners on base to end the eighth.

"I got lucky," Pujols said of the delicate grab. "Those plays, you don't practice. It's just reaction."

Pujols also recorded what Manager Mike Scioscia said was the most important play of the game, snaring a wicked line drive by Arizona's Josh Bell and turning it into a double play following Richards' leadoff walk of Gerardo Parra.

Richards — in his third start filling in for Weaver, who has a strained lower back — routinely unleashed fastballs in the area of 96 mph against the fastball-hitting Diamondbacks and struck out six.

Weaver, meanwhile, threw a Sunday morning bullpen session and felt fine, increasing the likelihood he will return to the Angels' rotation this week, although Scioscia said the "evolving" situation requires him to wait and see how Weaver (6-1, 2.61 earned-run average) feels Monday.

"Garrett's stuff was live in the zone; you won't see better movement than that," Scioscia said. "What you do with opportunity is where the rubber meets the road.… That makes a statement about his stuff."

The rookie right-hander walked four and let seven Diamondbacks reach base by the end of the fifth inning, but he escaped on a Bell groundout with two men on in the second, a caught-stealing of Upton to close the third and the Bell liner caught by Pujols.

"Most of the guys on base said, 'This guy's tough,' " Pujols said. "Ninety-five with a power slider and sinker. He's got stuff you can't teach."

Although he might be ticketed back to triple-A Salt Lake, Richards recorded 10 consecutive outs into the eighth inning.

Mike Trout gave Richards another run for comfort in the seventh with a run-scoring, two-out double that one-hopped the left-field wall to score Peter Bourjos.

Trout's hit followed his own 1-for-20 hitting skid, and ended the Angels' 0-for-17 slide with runners in scoring position. The team had been four for 43 in such situations.

Erick Aybar had three hits for the Angels (36-31), who are five games over .500 for the first time this season.

lance.pugmire@latimes.com

twitter.com/latimespugmire

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