The Richards of 2012 or 2013 may have collapsed. Heck, the Richards of this last May 30 failed to make it out of the first inning at Oakland after giving up two singles, a walk and a grand slam to the first four batters.
But this Richards seems different. He has more of an edge, a swagger, a confidence that rivals his stuff, which is often described as "filthy," a lively 96-mph fastball and a sharp breaking ball.
This Richards rebounded from the Abreu homer to retire 23 of 25 batters in a sparkling eight-inning, two-hit, three-run, nine-strikeout effort that led the Angels to an 8-4 Game 1 victory at
"The pitcher I am this year is far beyond the pitcher I was last year or the year before," Richards, 26, said. "Last year, or the year before, this game could have snowballed, and I would have been out in the fourth inning.
"But I wasn't going to let three runs in the first ruin my day. I think that's the maturing process I've gone through as a pitcher, and I'm happy with the direction I'm moving."
There seems little doubt that Richards' performance is pointing him toward Minnesota for the July 15
After Tuesday's rocky start, Manager
"I was the same pitcher from beginning to end," Richards said. "I kept pounding the zone, throwing quality strikes and getting ahead of guys."
The same can't be said for
Hill, who was 3-3 with a 3.23 ERA in 25 games for triple-A Pawtucket, replaced Richards with a five-run lead in the ninth and gave up a single and two walks. He was summoned again in the sixth inning of Game 2 and walked
Both times, Hill was bailed out of trouble.
"He had good velocity, good stuff," Scioscia said. "He just had trouble getting the ball into zones."
The Angels hoped Hill, who went 1-2 with a 6.28 ERA in 63 games for Cleveland last season but has held left-handers to a .215 mark in nine years, could be the left-handed specialist they haven't had all season. That appears doubtful.
The Angels acquired