SEATTLE (AP) — Garrett Richards walked two batters in the first inning. He pitched out of a jam in the third with runners on second and third. He overcame errors and walks thanks to double plays and strikeouts.
On a night the only offensive punch for the Los Angeles Angels came off the bat of Albert Pujols, it was Richards making sure those two runs stood up.
Pujols homered for the second straight game while Richards and two relievers combined on one-hitter as the Angels beat the Seattle Mariners 2-0 on Wednesday night.
"Just with experience I think the game has slowed down for me and so it's basically just come down to me executing pitches," Richards said.
Pujols hit a two-run homer in the third off Seattle starter Roenis Elias (0-1).
Richards (2-0) threw seven shutout innings. Abraham Almonte was the only Seattle batter to reach via hit when he singled in the third inning.
Richards walked three batters and the Angels committed two errors, but struck out six.
"Confidence is high. And I think that when you're confident you're pretty comfortable you're going to make those pitches at the very least," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "I think that's the next step Garrett has taken. I think he's getting to know his stuff better."
The pitching effort was needed after the Angels had been knocked around by Seattle, getting outscored 31-11 in losing the first four meetings against the Mariners. The pitching, combined with the 494th homer of Pujols' career provided a bright spot after a miserable start to the day and the news that Josh Hamilton could miss two months with a thumb injury.
Hamilton is likely to miss the next six to eight weeks after suffering an injury to his left thumb the night before sliding headfirst into first base. An MRI Wednesday revealed a complete tear of the thumb's ulnar collateral ligament. He'll be examined in Los Angeles on Friday to determine if he'll need surgery.
Pujols' blast went 418-feet into the netting beyond the Angels bullpen in left field, and like the night before, Mike Trout was on base. Pujols is now six homers shy of becoming the 26th player in baseball history to reach 500 homers in his career.
"Albert has very high expectations for what he needs to do," Scioscia said. "He takes it very seriously. He assumes the leadership role, he wants to be the cornerstone of the lineup and he takes that responsibility. It's good to see him do some of the things he's capable of and hopefully it'll be there for a long time."
Richards throwing a gem in Seattle should not have come as a surprise. The last time he started in Seattle last August, Richards threw 7 1-3 shutout innings. In 12 innings this season, Richards has given up one earned run and struck out 13. His only issue is walks and pitch count. He walked five in his season debut against Houston last week, lasting just five innings.
His one jam came in the third when Almonte got Seattle's only hit and Brad Miller reached on an error. Robinson Cano grounded out to first and Richards struck out Justin Smoak to end the inning.
"When you run into a buzz saw like that where a guy is throwing 96-97, getting an 86-89 slider over for strikes, it's going to be a tough night," Seattle manager Lloyd McClendon said. "He just out-dueled our guy."
Notes: Angels SS Erick Aybar was a late scratch from the lineup after getting some pre-game dental work. He was replaced by John McDonald. ... Injured Seattle started Taijuan Walker (shoulder) threw five shutout innings for Double-A Jackson in a rehab outing on Wednesday. Walker struck out 10. ... One of Seattle's other injured starters, Hisashi Iwakuma, threw his first bullpen session on Wednesday as he continues to work back from a finger injury that kept him from throwing for most of spring training.