ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — While trotting around the bases on his go-ahead homer, David Freese was as pumped up for teammate Garrett Richards as he was for himself.
Richards pitched seven effective innings for his first win since injuring his knee last year, but he wouldn’t have won if not for Freese’s clutch drive against rookie Keone Kela in the seventh inning of the Los Angeles Angels’ 3-2 victory over the Texas Rangers on Friday night.
“It was nice to get the lead for G.Richards while he was technically available to get the ‘W.’ That was huge,” Freese said. “I was fired up, thinking about trying to get that ‘W’ for him. As hitters, we think about the pitchers who are out there busting their tails when they’re not getting enough runs.”
Kole Calhoun greeted Kela (0-1) with a leadoff single and was erased on a fielder’s choice grounder by Mike Trout, who stole second and was nearly doubled off the bag after Kela caught Albert Pujols’ liner and tried to complete what would have been an inning-ending double play. Freeze then drove a 3-2 pitch to left-center for his fourth homer.
“You just look for something you can handle and be patient,” Freese said. “I was ready the first pitch, and then he threw that curveball in on 3-1, and I was kind of thinking that he might throw it on 3-2, just to get back on track. But he threw me a little sinker.”
Richards (1-1) allowed two runs and three hits, struck out five and walked three in his fifth straight win over the Rangers. The victory was the right-hander’s first since Aug. 15 last season, when he beat the Rangers 5-4 in Texas. He sustained a season-ending knee injury five days later while covering first base at Boston.
Joe Smith pitched a perfect eighth and Huston Street worked a hitless ninth for his sixth save. Street walked two, but ended the game by retiring Elvis Andrus on a grounder with runners at the corners.
Wandy Rodriguez allowed a run and five hits over five innings and struck out five in his American League debut after his contract was purchased from Triple-A Round Rock. It was the 36-year-old lefty’s first appearance and start in the majors since May 21, 2014, with Pittsburgh.
“It was a veteran outing by a guy that hadn’t been on a major league mound in more than nine months,” Rangers manager Jeff Banister said. “Wandy gave us five innings and pitched through traffic for most of the night, but he moved the fastball around and competed very well. He pitched on the corners, used his breaking ball when he needed to and kept some pretty good hitters off balance.”
Right-hander Logan Verrett was designated for assignment to make room for Rodriguez, released by Atlanta at the end of spring training.
Richards walked the Rangers’ eighth and ninth hitters, Jake Smolinski and Carlos Corporan, to open the third inning and both scored after Leonys Martin advanced the runners with a sacrifice bunt. Mitch Moreland delivered the first run with a groundout, and Prince Fielder singled off Richards’ glove to bring home the other.
The Angels got on the board in the fourth with Chris Iannetta’s sacrifice fly. They nearly tied it in the fifth, but center fielder Martin raced toward the warning track and made a leaping catch to rob Pujols of extra bases with the speedy Trout at first base.
Most of the pregame chatter in both clubhouses revolved around reports that troubled outfielder Josh Hamilton is expected to be traded from the Angels to the Rangers in the next few days. During the two seasons that Hamilton and 3B Adrian Beltre were Rangers teammates (2011-12), Hamilton had 68 homers, 222 RBIs and a .291 average while Beltre batted .310 with 68 homers and 207 RBIs.
“If it does happen and he becomes a teammate, we’re going to support him no matter what,” said Beltre, who joined the Rangers the year after Hamilton was the AL MVP. “We’ll do our best to help him think about baseball and not be a distraction. We know Josh and who he is. We hope he’s healthy, his mind is in a good position, and he has the support he needs to be the productive Josh that we all know he can be — the Josh that helped us go to the World Series in 2011. Who doesn’t need a guy like Josh Hamilton? There might be a little more media craziness or more questions about why he’s here, but we’ll deal with it.”
Rangers: RHP Colby Lewis will be starting on six days’ rest for the second straight time, after losing 3-1 to Seattle’s Felix Hernandez last Saturday. Lewis was 1-4 with a 9.35 ERA against the Angels last season.
Angels: LHP C.J. Wilson was pushed back two days because of elbow stiffness. He allowed eight runs in 12 1-3 innings over his last two starts — losses to Kansas City and Houston — after pitching eight innings of two-hit ball in his season debut at Seattle. Wilson spent his first seven big league seasons with the Rangers.