Anaheim, CA (SportsNetwork.com) - Garrett Richards flirted with a no-hitter in an outstanding 6 2/3-inning effort that led the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim to a 3-1 win over the Houston Astros.
Houston's lone hit of the day came on Jason Castro's single off Richards with one out in the seventh. Ten Astros struck out against the standout righty in the most impressive of his five starts since returning from knee surgery.
"My stuff is getting better," Richards said. "I'm attacking hitters. I'm moving in the right direction."
Richards (3-1) did walk four and hit Preston Tucker on his final pitch to force in a run, but came out on the good side of a tight duel with Scott Feldman to help the Angels split this four-game series.
David Freese and Erick Aybar paced Anaheim at the plate, with both going 2- for-3 with a run scored. Chris Iannetta added an RBI single during a three-run fifth inning that put the Angels in front to stay.
Feldman (2-4) rebounded from a brutal three-inning stint Tuesday against Texas to work seven frames, though four of his six hits allowed occurred in the fateful fifth.
"The story of the game was their starter. (Richards) had electric stuff," Astros manager A.J. Hinch stated. "A well-pitched game on both sides, it's too bad we came out on the short end."
Richards began the game by walking Jake Marisnick, then proceeded to set down the next 15 Houston batters to stir up the no-hit discussion. A leadoff walk to Tucker in the sixth put an end to that streak, but Richards bounced back by fanning Robbie Grossman and Marisnick before getting reigning American League batting champ Jose Altuve to ground weakly to first to keep the bid intact.
A bout of wildness in the seventh got Richards into his biggest jam, as Luis Valbuena and Chris Carter each drew walks with the Astros down 3-0 to begin the inning. Colby Rasmus then struck out, but Castro reached out and poked an outside pitch in front of left fielder Matt Joyce to spoil the no-hitter and load the bases.
Richards briefly regrouped to fan Marwin Gonzalez on a wicked slider. His 110th offering of the day landed squarely in Tucker's back, though, to force in Houston's only run.
Fernando Salas took over and got pinch-hitter Evan Gattis to pop out and strand the bases full, and Joe Smith and Huston Street were perfect over the final two innings to close out the victory.
"Garrett pitched a great game, (but) he threw a lot of pitches," Angels manager Mike Scioscia remarked. "You don't want to risk a guy's career by throwing too many pitches. The time was right to go to the pen."
While Richards was overpowering all throughout, Feldman had his fate sealed by a rough fifth inning in which the Angels scored all three of their runs.
The Houston righty retired 12 of the first 13 Anaheim hitters, with Freese's double in the second the lone blemish. Freese and Aybar opened the bottom of the fifth with singles, however, and Feldman walked Johnny Giavotella prior to Iannetta hitting a dribbler to the third base side of the mound.
Feldman picked up the ball while sliding to the grass and tossed it well over Castro's head, enabling both Freese and Aybar to cross the plate. Giavotella then came home on Kole Calhoun's fly ball to left for a 3-0 lead.
Castro's single ended a 12-inning hitless stretch for Houston that included Saturday's 6-5 win over the Angels, in which all of the Astros' hit came in the first three frames ... Richards improved to 13-4 in 29 lifetime starts at the Big A ... Feldman delivered his 12th quality start in 14 outings dating back to August of last season ... The Astros are 17-0 when scoring four or more runs this season and 3-12 when recording three or less.