ANAHEIM, Calif. - Walking seven batters and getting the victory is a neat trick. Somehow, Garrett Richards managed to pull it off.
The Los Angeles Angels' right-hander laboured through five gritty innings, escaping a pair of bases-loaded jams unscathed, and used teammate Erick Aybar's homer and four RBIs to beat the skidding Tampa Bay Rays 11-2 on Monday night.
Richards' walk total was the highest by an Angels pitcher since May 25, 2012, when Ervin Santana also issued seven free passes in a five-inning no-decision at Seattle.
"You can give Garrett an 'A' for effort, he hung in there," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "He never really got command of counts. His ball-strike ratio was very poor and his first pitch strike ratio was bad. He couldn't really get his secondary pitches into the game — but when it's all said and done, it's a win for us, and hopefully he'll take that and learn for next time."
Richards (5-6) gave up a run and just two hits while striking out six in the opener of a four-game series. The seven walks matched Richards' total from his previous five starts combined, but the Rays stranded eight runners while he was in the game and 12 altogether.
"It's easy to pitch when you've got good stuff, but it's another thing to go out there and compete and battle when you don't have your good stuff," teammate Josh Hamilton said. "His control wasn't there, but he battled through it and got out of some jams. That says a lot about him and his growth. It's going to do him well in the future."
Both times Tampa Bay loaded the bases, they didn't get a hit.
In the second, Richards retired David DeJesus on a grounder to first after a pair of two-out walks and an error by rookie third baseman Luis Jimenez on Yunel Escobar's grounder. Richards walked three more in the fifth before striking out rookie Wil Myers on a full count with his 27th pitch of the inning.
"You can look at the final score and all that stuff, but we saw 103 pitches while he was in there and only had two hits. That's where our biggest problem is right now," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "We're putting so much pressure on the pitching staff right now by not scoring runs, and we need to get better."
Ben Zobrist drove in both of Tampa Bay's runs with a homer in the first inning homer and an RBI single in the sixth. The Rays, coming off a three-game sweep by Oakland, have lost five straight and eight of nine to fall 6 1/2 games behind AL East-leading Boston — their largest deficit since July 7. Just nine games ago, they were tied with the Red Sox.
"We talked after the All-Star break about being kind of a thorn in peoples' sides, and whether we win or lose make them feel like they've earned it," Hamilton said after the Angels' ninth win in 10 games put them eight games under .500. "That's what we've done the last couple of weeks."
Rookie Chris Archer (8-6) threw 90 pitches in 3 2-3 innings, giving up five runs and nine hits in a rematch of his 4-1 victory against Richards last Wednesday at St. Petersburg, Fla. The right-hander's outing was the second-shortest of his 22 big league starts.
The Angels took a 2-1 lead in the third on an RBI single by rookie Kole Calhoun. Archer kept the damage to a minimum, retiring Jimenez on a fielder's choice grounder to shortstop with the bases loaded after an intentional walk to Hank Conger.
But Los Angeles got three more in the fourth. Andrew Romine scored on J.B. Shuck's groundout, and Aybar pulled a 3-2 pitch down the right-field line for his fifth homer.
"Leading up to that, I hadn't controlled the damage very well and they had a lot of two-strike hits," Archer said. "I felt really good. I just wasn't executing when I needed to. Basically I tried to do too much. It's a little disheartening because it was a game we really needed to win."
The Angels extended the margin to 10-2 with a five-run sixth that included Aybar's two-run triple against Brandon Gomes, bases-loaded RBI singles by Conger and Peter Bourjos, and Jimenez's sacrifice fly.
Aybar's four RBIs tied a career high for the switch-hitting shortstop, who also drove in four against the Rays in a 6-5 victory last Tuesday at Tropicana Field — including a go-ahead two-run double in the ninth against closer Fernando Rodney.
"Erick puts the ball in play," Scioscia said. "He's a little bit of a slasher, but he's dangerous with guys in scoring position because he's got speed and he can use the whole field."
Zobrist, the second batter Richards faced, hit his 11th home run before the Angels responded in the bottom half with Hamilton's RBI single after Mike Trout singled and stole his 30th base. Trout, who turned 22 on Aug. 7, became the youngest player in major league history with two seasons of at least 20 homers and 30 steals.
Things got so bad for the Rays, outfielder Sam Fuld was used as a reliever for the first time in his career and retired Shuck on a fly to centre on five pitches with runners at second and third. He became the third position player in franchise history to pitch in a game, joining Wade Boggs (1999) and Josh Wilson (2007).
NOTES: Grant Green capped the scoring in the seventh with his first major league homer while batting for Aybar. It was the first home run by an Angels pinch hitter at the "Big A" since Aug. 15, 2011, by Russell Branyan against Texas' Alexi Ogando. ... Los Angeles leads the AL with 33 triples, and the player that hit one has scored 24 times. ... The Rays will activate LHP Matt Moore (14-3) from the disabled list Tuesday and start him against Jason Vargas. The first-time All-Star, who missed the entire month of August because of elbow soreness, won six consecutive outings before getting a no-decision his previous time out on July 28 at Yankee Stadium.
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