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Freese's homer ices Richards' first win, spoils Wandy's debut

ANAHEIM -- David Freese hit a two-run home run off reliever Keone Kela in the bottom of the seventh inning and the Angels held on for a 3-2 victory over the Rangers on Friday night.

The Angels were 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position before Freese hit a 3-2 fastball deep over the left-center-field fence. Angels starter Garrett Richards earned the victory by holding the Rangers to two runs in seven innings. Richards, who started the season on the disabled list while still recovering from knee surgery, was making his first start at Angel Stadium since Aug. 9.

Rangers starter Wandy Rodriguez was making his first Major League appearance since May 21, 2014, against the Orioles. He held the Angels to one run in five innings and left with a 2-1 lead. He was hoping for his first win since May 26, 2013.

The Rangers threatened in the ninth off Huston Street, who had retired 15 of his first 16 batters this season. Adrian Beltre and Shin-Soo Choo drew back-to-back two-out walks, putting runners on the corners, but Elvis Andrus capped an eight-pitch at-bat with a groundout to third, giving Street his sixth save.

Video: [email protected]: Street locks down the save, strands two

Was that last at-bat fun?

"No," Street said, laughing. "It was not fun at all. [Andrus is] a battler. He takes great at-bats. I was pretty pumped when Freese made that play. That's a really, really, really tough play. I think the ball hit right on the cut of the grass."

Rodriguez skips out of trouble: Rodriguez threw 89 pitches in five innings. He faced 23 batters and nine reached base on five hits, three walks and one hit batter. Four of five leadoff hitters reached base. But he allowed just one run. The Angels left seven baserunners in the first five innings and were 1-for-5 with runners in scoring position off Rodriguez. Center fielder Leonys Martin made a terrific running catch on Albert Pujols' deep line drive in the fifth. More >

Video: [email protected]: Martin makes one-handed leaping catch

Finishing strong: Richards elevated a 95-mph fastball to Rougned Odor and got the Rangers' second baseman to swing right through it, resulting in Richards' second straight strikeout and the end of the seventh. The 26-year-old right-hander looked strong in his second start of 2015, giving up just two runs in a second inning in which no balls left the infield. He walked three, gave up three hits, struck out five and needed 98 pitches to record 21 outs. More >

Video: [email protected]: Richards holds Rangers to two runs

"He is a premium pitcher, a high velocity guy," Rangers manager Jeff Banister said. "Power movement on his fastball and a tough slider made it challenging on hitters."

Fielder thrives in clutch: Prince Fielder continues to drive in the runs with men in scoring position. He came up in the third inning with a runner on third and two outs, and hit a one-hopper back to the mound that Richards couldn't hold in his glove. It went for an infield single and Fielder is now 9-for-16 with runners in scoring position.

Video: [email protected]: Fielder hustles to notch RBI infield single

Freese unloads: It looked as if the Angels were on their way to another missed opportunity, after Pujols' hard comebacker landed right in the glove of Kela for the second out of the bottom of the seventh. But then Freese turned on a 3-2, inside-corner fastball and shot it out to left-center field for a two-run home run that gave the Angels a 3-2 lead. The Angels had the leadoff man on in six of the first seven innings, but scored him only twice.

"We've been battling offensively, obviously," Freese said. "Everybody who's watched us knows that. But let's keep grinding. They all count."

Video: [email protected]: Freese blasts go-ahead two-run homer

"It was not the location we wanted and Freese put a good swing on it and hit it to the deepest part of the ballpark," Banister said. "He wanted it a little more inside. It's part of the growing process for a young pitcher."

With his two-run shot in the seventh, Freese became the first Angels third baseman with four home runs in April since Troy Glaus hit seven in the opening month of 2004. Last year, Freese didn't hit his fourth home run until July 5.

Kela had a chance to get out of the seventh without facing Freese. With one out and Mike Trout on second, Pujols hit a scorching line drive up the middle, Kela caught it and Trout was way off second base. But Kela lobbed his throw to second and Trout dived back safely.

Video: [email protected]: Keone makes nice catch on a Pujols liner

"I don't see much difference. … He's picked it right up." -- Angels manager Mike Scioscia, on whether he's starting to see the same Richards from 2014

"It was time to pitch [Tanner] Scheppers. Kela has been pitching the seventh for us. The mix of Kela, [Shawn] Tolleson and [Neftali] Feliz has worked well for us. I felt it was time to put Scheppers in." -- Banister on why he used Scheppers in the sixth inning and Kela in the seventh.

Rangers: Colby Lewis pitches for the Rangers against the Angels at 8:05 p.m. (CT) on Saturday in Anaheim. Lewis was 1-4 with a 9.35 ERA in five starts against the Angels last year.

Angels: C.J. Wilson will take the ball for the Angels, pitching against his former team for the first time since 2013. Wilson had a 7.36 ERA in eight starts against Texas from 2012-13.

Watch every out-of-market regular season game live on MLB.TV.

Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show".T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields.
Read More: Garrett Richards