It was the kind of first week that prompted declarative statements about the season that remains. For the fourth time in their first five games, the Angels went quietly into the night, stymied Saturday by Texas left-hander Cole Hamels in a 4-1 defeat at Angel Stadium, and afterward Manager Mike Scioscia professed faith in his so-far silent offense while his players struck confident tones.
“We’re a good club,” Garrett Richards said. “I truly believe that. I don’t think there’s anything to worry about. I don’t think anybody’s panicking in here. We’ve started out slow the last couple years, but we’re right in it in the end. Once everybody starts clicking, it’s going to be fun.”
Saturday was no fun. For six innings, Hamels, the Rangers’ ace, outdueled Richards, the man the Angels need to be their ace. Hamels struck out four and did not give up an extra-base hit.
Richards, the 27-year-old right-hander, worked 62/3 innings, in his second start of the season after an opening-day loss to the Chicago Cubs. He was good, if again short of dominant, striking out six while walking one and yielding eight hits. He was charged with four runs, two of which were earned.
“It was a game we possibly could have won,” Scioscia said, “if we supported him a little better.”
Another run would have scored later in the inning but for Andrelton Simmons’ superb arm from shortstop. He picked off Craig Gentry’s throw from left field on a Ryan Rua double, spun and delivered a low-lying strike to home in time for Carlos Perez to tag out Elvis Andrus.
That was contrasted with a sloppy seventh inning for the Angels, when, for the third time this season, Yunel Escobar threw errantly after Andrus led off by tapping a ball to him at third base. Then, when Andrus was on second, Richards attempted to pick him off, and Johnny Giavotella missed the throw.
“They were two pretty routine plays,” Scioscia said. “Those two things sting.”
Andrus scored when the Rangers’ Bryan Holaday drove a ball that landed on the left-field foul line for a double. That forced Richards out of the game, and reliever Jose Alvarez gave up a single to Rougned Odor that scored Holaday for a fourth run.
The Angels scored their run in the first inning. Escobar singled up the middle, Craig Gentry walked, and Mike Trout grounded them both over a base. Albert Pujols followed with a groundout that allowed Escobar to score.
The Angels connected on consecutive one-out singles in the sixth inning, setting the table for Trout and Pujols to come through. But they could not: Trout patted a ball harmlessly to third base for an out, and Pujols popped out to first. There were no more veritable threats, only a one-out double from Trout in the ninth that left him stranded at second when the game ended.
The Angels have not played well. And, on Sunday afternoon, they will send out Jered Weaver, in what will be one of the more intriguing debuts of this season. After a spring training in which he struggled with minor league hitters and nerve tightness, Weaver will attempt to stymie a talented Texas lineup.
Richards has had success against Texas in the past. Memorably, one morning last April, he received a $300 invoice from Beltre after breaking three of his bats in a seven-inning, three-hit win the previous night.
He did not break any of Beltre’s bats Saturday night.
Follow Pedro Moura on Twitter: @pedromoura