Everybody out west is talking about the Oakland Athletics. And deservedly so, after the splash the AL West leaders made in the pitching market at the trade deadline. But most are forgetting about Garrett Richards, who has quietly become the ace of a Los Angeles Angels team that isn’t half bad either.
Heading into Monday night’s showdown in Chavez Ravine against the Los Angeles Dodgers, Richards had already established himself as one of the most underrated pitchers in all of baseball. Tyson Ross with the San Diego Padres hasn’t received the accolades he deserves for the season he’s having, and Corey Kluber is finally beginning to garner the attention he deserves for his string of sparkling performances for the Cleveland Indians. But there is perhaps no pitcher who is more underrated than Richards, who has continued to pitch incredibly despite being minimally discussed in the national media.
Richards hurled a complete game shutout Monday night against the Dodgers, allowing only five hits while striking out nine. He has looked unhittable in recent starts, and he seems to be gearing up for an incredible finish to an already solid 2014. But more important than his performance up to this point will be his numbers down the stretch in the AL West pennant race. As noted by every baseball writer across the country at the trade deadline, the Athletics’ starting rotation is absolutely loaded with talent. The A’s have their sights set on the American League crown, and many say that it’s going to come down to the arms race between Oakland and Detroit. But that might not necessarily be the case. And if that’s not the case, it’s because Richards said it wasn’t.
The Angels’ rotation cannot be compared to Oakland’s in any way, shape or form, because the Athletics simply have more talent. But sheer talent won’t win the pennant. Steady, consistent outings by quality pitchers will, and Richards has the capability to provide the Angels’ rotation with that in each and every outing down the stretch. He isn’t a household name just yet, but if Richards continues to pitch well, he absolutely has the capability to be the catalyst that drives his team to a division title.