If this keeps up — and the Angels certainly hope it will — they might have to explain to their fans why they yanked their most effective pitcher out of their starting rotation.
Garrett Richards dominated the Detroit Tigers on Saturday, pitching seven innings without giving up a run or a walk. The Angels scored nine runs in the first inning — highlighted by Mike Trout’s first grand slam — and rolled to a 10-0 rout at Angel Stadium.
The Angels scored more runs in the first inning Saturday than they had totaled in any of their first 15 games this season. In the first two games of this series, they have outscored the defending American League champions, 17-1.
No bragging in the home clubhouse, not when your goal is the World Series and your record is 6-10.
“Two games is not really a streak,” Angels Manager Mike Scioscia said.
Richards has started twice in place of the injured Jered Weaver, working into the seventh inning both times. No other Angels pitcher has reached the seventh inning this season.
Richards gave up two hits, a single to Prince Fielder in the second inning and a double to Miguel Cabrera in the seventh. Of the 16 batters he faced in between, the only one to reach base did so on a strikeout that bounced past catcher Chris Iannetta for a wild pitch.
“We’ve always known he had the stuff,” Iannetta said. “It’s a timing issue. Is he ready? Is he not ready? He’s shown us the last two times he’s ready to be a starter.”
Richards had eight strikeouts in seven innings. Joe Blanton has eight strikeouts in 15 innings this season, and an 8.59 earned-run average. Jason Vargas has eight strikeouts in 15 innings, and a 6.75 ERA.
If a decision were based strictly on performance, the Angels could remove Blanton or Vargas from the rotation when Weaver returns next month.
But Scioscia, who said Richards was the Angels’ best pitcher in spring training, had no interest in committing to anything Saturday. Blanton and Vargas might pitch better, Richards might pitch worse, or the problem could solve itself if another starter gets hurt in the interim.
“Garrett is going to get a good look,” Scioscia said. “We’ll see what we’re presented with at the time. We have a lot of confidence in the guys in our rotation.
“Garrett has a role on our club, if he’s not in the rotation.”
His role Saturday involved waiting. The Angels sent 13 men to the plate in the bottom of the first inning, taking so long to hit that Richards had to throw in the batting cage to stay loose.
Trout hit a grand slam. Peter Bourjos had two infield hits. The Angels scored nine runs on 10 hits, a club record for hits in the first inning.
“You can’t ask for any more,” Richards said.
Detroit starter Rick Porcello needed 28 pitches to get his first out — two, when Iannetta grounded into a double play — and never did get the third out.
Richards can lean on Weaver for counsel about how cruel the game can be. In 2006, Weaver broke into the rotation with four starts. He won them all, with an ERA of 1.37, and the Angels yanked him anyway, so they could activate Bartolo Colon.
The Angels recalled Weaver two weeks later, clearing a spot in the rotation by cutting his big brother Jeff.