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Richards starts strong, but fades vs. Astros

HOUSTON -- Garrett Richards could tell he wasn't right, even as he navigated through the first four innings without giving up a single hit to the Astros' potent lineup on Wednesday night. He threw first-pitch strikes to only three of 13 hitters, his slider was hanging out over the middle of the plate -- and soon, it all came back to haunt him.

What started off as a potential no-hitter for Richards ended with his first two-homer game in 22 months and a 6-3 loss for his Angels, now a game back of the Astros in the American League West after dropping the first two of a three-game series.

Richards gave up no hits in the first four innings and four runs on seven hits in the next 2 1/3 innings.

"I have to be better than that," said Richards, now 10-8 with a 3.38 ERA. "Even on my worst day, I have to be better than that. I have to keep us in the game. I have to give us a chance to win. I know when I came out we were only three runs out, but I have to be able to keep it closer."

Richards departed with a 4-1 deficit, but an Angels offense that was without Mike Trout for a second straight day proved helpless to make up the difference. Richards finished having thrown first-pitch strikes to only 42 percent of the hitters he faced (his season average heading in was 61 percent), and he didn't have any feel for his curveball and slider as the game progressed.

Richards threw 11 breaking balls while starting the game with four no-hit innings. He threw 19 over the next 2 1/3 innings and gave up five hits on them. Two of them were solo homers into the right-center-field bullpen -- by Preston Tucker in the sixth and Jon Singleton in the seventh. It was Singleton's first home run in 81 at-bats.

"I hung a couple of sliders, and they capitalized," said Richards, whose last two-homer game came Sept. 22, 2013, against the A's. "It's baseball. That's how it goes sometimes."

Richards entered with a 2.34 ERA over his last eight starts, while beginning to resemble the guy who was lights out before season-ending knee surgery last August. But the 27-year-old right-hander struggled against the team that leads the Majors in home runs, one night after C.J. Wilson was charged with six runs in four innings.

"I have to be better -- bottom line," Richards said. "I'm not going to give them any credit. I have to be better."

Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez and listen to his podcast.
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