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Angels turn to Richards in opener with Blue Jays

(SportsNetwork.com) - Right-hander Garrett Richards will continue his prolonged audition for a spot in the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim starting rotation on Friday night, when they visit Rogers Centre to begin a four-game weekend series with the Toronto Blue Jays.

Richards was a part-time starter and reliever heading into this season, but he's been strong beginning games thus far in 2014 while holding opposition batters to a paltry .184 average and striking out 40 in 38 innings.

He was a 5-3 winner in his most recent outing on Saturday, when he held Texas to three runs in six innings and struck out nine.

He started twice against Toronto in the late stages of the 2013 season and won both assignments while allowing a combined five runs in 13 2/3 innings.

Toronto enters with an average of seven runs scored -- including 13 home runs -- in eight games in May.

"We are some kind of hot right now," manager John Gibbons said. "You put us in this ballpark, it's a home run heaven here. It's tough to pitch to. Everyone is feeding off each other."

The Blue Jays send Dustin McGowan amid rumors that he's battling to maintain starting status, though the team's general manager denied that he's in jeopardy of demotion.

"I never understood the whole McGowan watch," Alex Anthopoulos said. "I kept hearing every start is for his job. I don't know that we've ever said it. It's been three starts in a row, every start is for his job. I just don't know that ever came from the organization."

He was a 7-2 winner in his most recent outing at Pittsburgh on Sunday and has given up just three earned runs in his last 13 innings of work.

"He's definitely shown me something," Gibbons said.

McGowan is 1-4 with a 3.86 ERA in five meetings with the Angels.

On Thursday in Toronto, Edwin Encarnacion belted two home runs and drove in three to lead the Blue Jays to a 12-6 rout of the Philadelphia Phillies and sweep of a four-game set.

Juan Francisco went 3-for-3 with a solo homer and three runs scored and Adam Lind, fresh off the 15-day disabled list, had a two-run blast and three RBI for Toronto, which outscored the Phillies, 31-11, in the series.

Blue Jays starter R.A. Dickey (3-3) worked 6 1/3 innings and allowed three runs on seven hits, while fanning eight.

On Wednesday in Anaheim, Derek Jeter hit his first homer of the season, Vidal Nuno tossed 6 1/3 solid innings and the New York Yankees beat the Angels, 9-2, in the rubber match of a three-game series.

C.J. Cron went 3-for-4 with an RBI for the Angels, who saw starter Hector Santiago (0-6) give up six runs -- two earned -- on five hits with three walks over 2 1/3 innings.

"Hector wasn't able to minimize damage tonight," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "He's an emotional guy and he needs to get his confidence back."

The Angels went 6-1 last season versus the Blue Jays, sweeping a three-game set in Toronto.