Baseball / Sports

Angels fall to Astros as Richards is burned early

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- The trick to turning talent into consistency in the majors is to minimize damage on the bad nights.

Garrett Richards, who is all about finding the positives even in defeat these days, at least had that going for him in the Angels' 5-2 loss to the Houston Astros on Monday night.

Richards allowed the first five batters to reach base and he gave up three runs in the first, but still finished seven innings and kept the Angels close enough to get the tying run into the on-deck circle in the ninth.

"Finding a way to throw seven innings after going through that in the first three innings isn't an easy thing to do," Richards said. "I think that's part of my maturity and my progression as a starting pitcher."

Richards (4-1) induced three double-play balls to help him work out of jams. Unfortunately, it wasn't enough to undo the early damage, as the Astros took a 5-0 lead in the third inning.

"I made some good pitches and they were (taking) on some good two-strike breaking balls and they found a way to put the ball in play," Richards said. "Just one of those nights."

The 10 hits the Astros collected against Richards came in all forms, from blistering line drives to seeing-eye grounders to one popup that left fielder Grant Green never could find.

Even if Richards had been on the top of his game, the Angels would have had trouble winning because they couldn't mount much of an attack against Houston lefty Dallas Keuchel until it was too late.

Keuchel, who is enjoying a breakthough third season in the majors, came inches from pitching a second consecutive shutout. With two outs in the ninth, Mike Trout beat out an infield hit. Albert Pujols then singled and Keuchel was chased out of the game. Both runs scored on Howie Kendrick's triple against Josh Zeid. Trout and Pujols had just the fourth and fifth hits of the night against Keuchel, and only two of them got out of the infield.

"He had the ball down all night," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "He got some breaking balls under our swings. Got some changups that were down and we got in front of them. He pitched a strong game for them."

(c)2014 The Orange County Register (Santa Ana, Calif.)

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