The Angels enjoyed a welcome boost Wednesday — twice.
Garrett Richards pitched his best game of the season as the right-hander tossed eight scoreless innings in the Angels' 4-0 win over the Houston Astros, snapping the Angels' four-game losing streak.
Before the game, star center fielder Mike Trout had an MRI exam for his back stiffness and, he and the Angels were relieved to learn, the test revealed nothing serious.
"It's definitely good news," said the 22-year-old Trout, who did not play Wednesday but said he hoped to return in the next couple of days.
Richards was coming off his worst outing when he failed to escape the first inning last Friday in Oakland, and "I definitely came into this game with a little chip on my shoulder," he said. "Last one was embarrassing.
"We're on a bit of a skid and I wanted to be the guy to get us going again," Richards said, adding he was "just pounding the [strike] zone, going right at guys."
Angels catcher Hank Conger said that "you could definitely see right at the get-go [Richards] was coming out pretty hot with his fastball. His stuff looked amazing."
Trout missed the Saturday and Sunday games in Oakland and, in Tuesday night's game against the Astros at Minute Maid Park, he left after the first inning because the back pain returned.
That prompted the Angels to send Trout to a doctor in Houston for the MRI exam to see whether there was any damage.
"The MRI was clean, it was just some inflammation in my mid-left back," Trout said.
"Nothing I should really worry about, nothing broke or anything in there."
For the Angels, Trout can't get back soon enough. With fellow outfielder Josh Hamilton having rejoined the club after nearly two months on the disabled list, the Angels expected to have their lineup back at full strength. Trout's ailment delayed those plans.
Trout this year is batting .293 with 11 home runs and 38 runs batted in, including a three-run, walk-off homer May 15 in Anaheim that gave the Angels a 6-5 win over the Tampa Bay Rays.
He also leads Major League Baseball in voting for this year's All-Star Game with 1.36 million votes to date.
"We're not anticipating a DL [disabled list] with Mike at all, in fact the opposite," Manager Mike Scioscia said. "He's made enough progress where hopefully he'll be back in a couple days."
Trout was asked whether the doctor had given him any instructions.
"Whatever I can tolerate," Trout said.
"I don't want to go out there and re-aggravate it and keep playing like that the rest of the year," Trout said. "I want to get it right. I want to go out there and play pain free."
Trout also said he hadn't previously had major issues with his back.
"I had some in the minors but they were like my lower back from sliding, diving head first," he said. "But other than that, no."
And on Wednesday morning, Trout said he was "pretty happy I woke up and it wasn't worse. I'm going to come in tomorrow hoping to play."Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times