ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — 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 labored 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 6½ 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.