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Richards comes up short in pitchers' duel

Righty tosses seven innings, allows one run on two hits
@JoeFrisaro
June 8, 2019

MIAMI -- The cruel reality of the big leagues is nothing is guaranteed, even on days a starting pitcher is flirting with a no-hitter. Trevor Richards, who fully understands the rough road it takes to just make it to the Majors, was victimized by some tough luck on Saturday afternoon.

MIAMI -- The cruel reality of the big leagues is nothing is guaranteed, even on days a starting pitcher is flirting with a no-hitter. Trevor Richards, who fully understands the rough road it takes to just make it to the Majors, was victimized by some tough luck on Saturday afternoon.

After not allowing a hit for 5 2/3 innings, Richards relinquished a run on a sacrifice fly in the seventh inning. It was all the Braves needed to trip up the Marlins, 1-0, at Marlins Park.

Box score

Richards, feeding the Braves a steady diet of changeups, didn’t allow a hit until Freddie Freeman’s two-out single in the sixth inning.

“I'm aware of it, but I'm not really thinking about it,” Richards said. “I'm thinking about the next inning, the next hitters coming up, trying to prepare for the next three outs.”

In the seventh inning, Richards' second hit allowed proved costly. Rookie Austin Riley doubled to open the frame, and with one out, scored on Tyler Flowers’ sacrifice fly to right field. Richards was lifted for a pinch-hitter in the seventh, logging seven innings while allowing one run on two hits.

“He did a really nice job of really pitching, like he always does,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. “He really slowed them down early, kind of maximized his changeup, used his cutter some. I thought he did a really nice job with that club.”

Of the 95 pitches Richards threw, 58 were changeups, inducing nine swinging strikes. That’s the most changeups the right-hander has ever thrown in a start. Last August, he had a start in which he went to the changeup 42 times. And in his last outing this season, on June 2 at San Diego, he tossed 37.

“I just wanted to keep them off balance, and attack them with my best pitch, which is a changeup,” Richards said. “I threw a handful of them today. That was the game plan going in.”

After the Braves jumped all over Jose Urena on Friday in a 7-1 win, Richards’ changeup, which averaged 83.9 mph, contrasted Urena’s 95.5 mph average two-seam fastball on Friday.

“You just have to slow that club down,” Mattingly said. “It doesn't really work if you don't throw it for strikes. He threw a bunch of off-speed [pitches] early, which allow him to use his fastball differently. I thought he did a really nice job.”

According to Statcast, the 26-year-old throws the pitch 37.1 percent of the time. It’s a pitch the opposition is hitting .168 against.

“Richards is really good,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “That changeup he has is the equalizer. You bring in somebody behind him, and it looks like they're throwing 100.”

In the eighth inning, Braves third baseman Josh Donaldson made a run-saving play on Brian Anderson’s slow roller to third base. Harold Ramirez hit a pinch-hit double and stole third. But with runners on first and third, Anderson was out by a step. Miami challenged, but the call was upheld.

“It's a spot as a middle of the order hitter that you want to be in,” Anderson said. “You want a chance to do some damage there and tie the game up or maybe more right there. He made a really good play. I got out on a slider a little bit. I was going hard right out of the box, so he had to make a great play.”

The Marlins have now dropped three straight, including the first two to the Braves, and Miami aims to avoid the sweep on Sunday afternoon.

Julio Teheran limited the Marlins to two hits in six innings, striking out five.

For Richards, the outcome didn’t go his way, but the way he threw was yet another reminder of the upside of a talented starting rotation.

Richards had won three straight decisions, and in two of his last three games, he threw as many as seven innings.

“You always want to go seven, and as a starter, that's your job,” Richards said. “Get deep into the game. They're an aggressive team. So as long as I'm around the zone, they're going to be swinging early. That was the game plan, keep them off balance, and attack them. Make the defense work a little bit.”

Joe Frisaro has covered the Marlins for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro and listen to his podcast.