Garrett Richards held the Blue Jays to four hits and two runs over seven innings… (Mark J. Terrill / Associated…)
This was so much better than your below-average Joe.
Garrett Richards continued to provide a massive upgrade over Joe Blanton, whose epic struggles had put him on pace to lose more than 20 games before the Angels finally yanked him from their starting rotation.
Richards pitched seven strong innings to help the Angels collect an 8-2 triumph over the Toronto Blue Jays on Thursday night at Angel Stadium that ended their season-high losing streak at six games.
BOX SCORE: Angels 8, Toronto 2
The right-hander surrendered four hits and two runs, giving him as many victories (two) as a member of the rotation as Blanton obtained in a fraction of the appearances; Richards has made six starts to Blanton's 20.
"Every day the starting pitcher wants to be the guy who gets us back on track," said Richards, who did exactly that by striking out four and walking only two.
Richards was backed by an early onslaught from a reshuffled Angels lineup, which produced seven runs in the first three innings against Josh Johnson (1-8).
Not even the much-maligned Angels bullpen could mess things up.
Handed a six-run cushion, relievers J.C. Gutierrez and Daniel Stange each pitched a scoreless inning. It was just what the bullpen needed after a seven-game trip in which it had blown four saves, suffered five losses and compiled a 10.13 earned-run average.
Richards (3-4) is providing the kind of back-of-the-rotation boost the Angels, who still trail Oakland by 131/2 games in the American League West, could have used earlier in the season. In two starts since replacing Blanton, Richards has given up only two runs in 12 innings.
The Angels made things comfortable for Richards with a four-run first inning highlighted by Mark Trumbo's two-run homer and run-scoring singles by Howie Kendrick and J.B. Shuck.
"It was something we've been looking for," said Trumbo, who crushed a hanging breaking ball for his 24th homer. "We jumped on someone early and were able to keep the pressure on them throughout the game."
Josh Hamilton, batting in the No. 3 spot for only the second time this season, made it 5-0 in the second inning with a sacrifice fly, and the Angels scored two more runs in the third after a play by left fielder Melky Cabrera that will be shown endlessly on blooper reels.
After Trumbo led off the inning with a single, Cabrera fielded Erick Aybar's single to left and cocked his arm to throw the ball back to the infield. But the ball slipped out of his hand and ended up behind Cabrera, prompting laughter from the crowd when the replay was shown on the video board.
Trumbo scored on the play and Aybar came home on Shuck's sacrifice fly.
The only blemish on Richards' night came in the fifth inning, when the Blue Jays scored twice on a walk, a double by Colby Rasmus, an error on right fielder Kole Calhoun and Maicer Izturis' RBI groundout.
Richards, who has bounced from the bullpen to the rotation all season, was removed after 90 pitches because he's still building stamina in his arm. He's also seeking to extend a string of impressive outings.
"He's pitched like this before," Manager Mike Scioscia said, "it's just trying to bottle it to get the consistency."