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LAA@CWS: Richards strikes out nine over eight frames

Garrett Richards hopes to duplicate innings two through eight of his last start against the Astros on Sunday. The first inning, however, he can do without.

In his first inning against Chicago on Tuesday, Richards gave up a three-run homer to Jose Abreu. After that, he retired 23 of the next 25 batters and two-hit the White Sox while striking out nine in eight innings.

"I think I was the same pitcher from beginning to end," Richards said. "I wasn't going to let three runs in the first ruin my day. I think that's the maturing process that I've gone through as a pitcher, and I'm happy with the direction I'm moving."

In his last six starts, Richards has a 5-0 record with a 1.49 ERA. He's already faced the Astros three times this season, and has a 2-1 record and a 2.70 ERA.

On Saturday, the Astros' bullpen blew a 5-2 lead as the Angels rode an eight-run seventh-inning outburst, including home runs by David Freese, Albert Pujols and C.J. Cron, to run their home winning streak to nine games. The Astros will try to avoid the four-game sweep Sunday with Collin McHugh as their starter.

McHugh is trying to snap a personal four-game losing streak. In his last four starts, he's 0-4, but with a respectable ERA of 4.13. He's allowed only 17 hits over 24 innings in those four starts.

McHugh is averaging 10.87 strikeouts per nine innings, including eight in six innings in a start June 30 against Seattle.

"I always say strikeouts are accidents, and they really are," McHugh said. "It starts with getting ahead in the count."

Astros: Singleton seeing lefties
Jon Singleton, the second Astros prospect to be called up this season, has been struggling at the plate with a minor exception. Singleton, a left-hander hitter, has had some success against left-handed pitchers.

Singleton entered Saturday with a .313 average against left-handed pitching, with a .688 slugging percentage and a 1.082 OPS. He hit a homer off of lefty C.J. Wilson on Friday night.

"His total average for the season entering Saturday's game, however, was .181. Against right-handed pitchers, he's batting .123.

"A lot of times when guys are in that funk, especially lefties facing lefties, it actually helps them get out of it faster because it makes them think about staying on the ball because now they have to stay in there because they have breaking pitches away from him," manager Bo Porter said. "It was good to see him be able to hang in there on a tough lefty [Friday] and be able to swing the bat the way he did."

Angels: Halos not concerned with A's deal
Despite chasing the American League West-leading Athletics, Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto's reaction to Oakland's trade was likely no different than many fans.

"My initial reaction was, 'Wow,' like I'm sure every other person in baseball or fan watching," Dipoto said.

On Friday, the A's acquired right-handed starters Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel from the Cubs in exchange for Minor Leaguers Addison Russell, Dan Straily, Billy McKinney and a player to be named. Both Samardzija and Hammel sport sub-3.00 ERAs and will add to a pitching staff that already leads the AL in ERA.

"We can only control what we can control and what we've identified that we want to focus is what we've been working and that was to change the look of the bullpen and so far, we've been able to accomplish that," Dipoto said.

The Angels are 3-6 this season against Oakland and will face the new-look A's for the first time Aug. 22.

Worth noting
• In addition to acquiring Thatcher, the Angels called up left-hander Michael Roth on Saturday. They optioned Cory Rasmus and designated Rich Hill for assignment.

• Mike Trout is the first Angel since Vladimir Guerrero with 20 home runs and 60 RBIs before the All-Star Break.

• Jose Altuve entered Saturday with 121 hits, which led Major League Baseball, and he was leading the AL with a .342 average and 37 steals. The only Astros player to have more hits prior to the All-Star break is Bob Watson with 123 in 1973.

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