Richards stays grounded against White Sox
ANAHEIM -- Garrett Richards didn't record a single fly-ball out in his seven-plus innings on Tuesday night. He only struck out four batters, nowhere close to his season high of 11, and below his average of 7.2 strikeouts per nine innings. What the hard-throwing right-hander did do was induce ground-ball out after ground-ball out in an efficient performance, holding the White Sox to three runs in the Angels' 5-3 win at Angel Stadium.
Richards got ahead in counts, didn't walk a batter, pounded Chicago's power-hitting righties inside and broke multiple bats en route to generating 13 groundouts. Three of those turned into double plays. One of those was a nifty 3-6-3 twin killing turned by Albert Pujols and Erick Aybar in the fourth inning with the middle of the White Sox order up.
"I was able to hit glove side and I was able to start sinking the ball as the game went on, and that probably led to more ground balls," Richards said.
It didn't end with him, either. When Joe Smith came into the game in the eighth inning with two runners on and nobody out, the Angels' setup man got three groundouts of his own to escape the jam with only one run crossing the plate. Two of the White Sox three runs, in fact, came on groundouts.
All those ground balls meant the Angels had to play sharp infield defense, and they did. They haven't always been able to do that this season -- their defensive metrics at third base and second base, especially, have been well below league average. Second baseman Johnny Giavotella has committed 11 errors and has the lowest Ultimate Zone Rating among all Major League second basemen, according to FanGraphs. Third baseman Conor Gillaspie, who the Angels acquired from the White Sox to fill in for the injured David Freese, also had a very poor -10.2 UZR, mainly due to his lack of range.
But the Angels designated Gillaspie for assignment Tuesday and called up No. 12 prospect Kaleb Cowart to make his Major League debut specifically to bolster their infield defense. Cowart has a reputation as an excellent defender at third and made several solid plays Tuesday night, and manager Mike Scioscia said the Angels immediately felt his presence.
"The infield was great," Scioscia said. "Kaleb Cowart looked just like a veteran out there on the field defensively. That's good to see. He's a young kid, but the kid's a talented kid defensively -- it's gonna lift the whole left side of the infield. I think you saw Erick Aybar respond. Hopefully it's something we can move forward with until David Freese is back."