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Halos can't overcome Richards' rocky start, fall to A's

Righty allows five runs in first inning; Trout, Kendrick homer in vain

OAKLAND -- Garrett Richards had only one word for his latest outing.


After lasting only two-thirds of an inning, and allowing eight of 10 batters to reach, and loading the bases twice, and giving up his first career grand slam, and putting the Angels in a five-run hole before the end of the first inning against the first-place A's, there was no overstating it.

"I didn't show up for us tonight," Richards said, speaking moments after the 9-5 loss at Coliseum on Friday night, but hours after his work was finished. "I didn't give us a chance to win, and I put us in a hole early."

The Angels -- now 30-24 and 2 1/2 games back of Oakland in the American League West, and their chances of finishing the weekend in first place ruined -- got a bullpen-saving performance from Wade LeBlanc, who gave up four runs in 6 1/3 innings, and made it a lot more interesting than it could've been.

But the hole was too deep.

Richards gave up back-to-back singles to Coco Crisp and John Jaso to start the game, issued a four-pitch walk to Josh Donaldson, then grooved a 2-0 fastball right down the middle to A's first baseman Brandon Moss, who blasted it way out to right-center field to plate four runs with one swing.

"I was definitely ready for it," Moss said. "I don't think there's many times I go up there taking."

After striking out Yoenis Cespedes, Richards gave up back-to-back singles to Jed Lowrie and Josh Reddick, walked Derek Norris on four straight pitches, struck out Alberto Callaspo, then walked Crisp with the bases loaded. And that was it.

It matched the shortest start of Richards' career -- also on Aug. 15, 2011, against the Rangers -- and was the quickest exit by an Angels starter since Jered Weaver failed to record an out on May 28, 2012, against the Yankees, a start in which he exited with a back injury.

"Obviously he didn't have his release point," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said.

But Richards felt good as he took the mound at around 7 p.m. PT, and said he didn't feel over-amped to face the Angels' division rivals.

"I felt good," Richards said. "My body feels good. I still had my velo and stuff. I just couldn't find a feel on the two-seam. I was cutting the four-seam out of the zone and the two-seam was sinking out of the zone. I tried to work through it, tried to make some adjustments, but wasn't able to do it."

Richards fell behind on six of the 10 batters he faced, including each of the first four, and started off 2-0 on four of them. Twenty-one of his 37 pitches went for balls.

As Richards said, "I didn't help myself out."

Chris Iannetta made two trips to the mound, one of them alongside pitching coach Mike Butcher, first to try to calm him down and then to try to build up his confidence. But none of it worked.

"I hope this happens to him 10, 15 more times in his career because that would mean he's had a long career," Iannetta said. "This stuff just happens. The best pitchers in the game, you see them come out in the first, second inning because they struggled. It'll happen again. Hopefully it happens to him again, because that'll mean he played for a long time."

The Angels battled back, as they've done several times this season. Mike Trout hit a solo homer and Howie Kendrick added a two-run shot in the fourth against lefty Drew Pomeranz, who entered with a 1.38 ERA in four starts since replacing Dan Straily in the rotation, and C.J. Cron added a two-run double against Dan Otero.

And had it not been for Donaldson, who tallied a solo homer in the second, an RBI single in the third and a two-run shot in the fifth -- they may have actually completed the comeback.

But the hole Richards dug was too deep.

And there was another word he could've used for it -- surprising.

The 26-year-old right-hander entered 4-1 with a 3.00 ERA in his first 10 starts this season. He had allowed only one home run in 66 innings, and had given up just six runs in 39 frames on the road.

"It's just like anything else in this game," Richards said. "It's a learning experience. I'm going to stay positive. I've had a [heck] of a year so far, and I can't let one outing ruin my progress."

Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez.
Read More: Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, C.J. Cron, Garrett Richards, Howie Kendrick, Mike Trout