July 25, 2012
When Will Smith was drafted in 2007 by the Angels, he dreamed of taking the mound at Angel Stadium one day and having a game like this. It didn't occur to him that it would be in a different team's uniform, though -- and against former minor league teammate Garrett Richards.
Smith pitched two-hit ball over seven innings in the longest of his five major league starts, and the Kansas City Royals beat Los Angeles 4-1 on Tuesday night. The 23-year-old left-hander was dealt to the Royals along with reliever Sean O'Sullivan for third baseman Alberto Callaspo in July 2010.
"At first, I didn't know how to take it because I was so young," Smith said. "But people kept telling me it was a good thing for me. I'm very happy in Kansas City. We've got a great young core here, so I'm excited. It always feels good to win, going against a buddy of yours like Garrett."
Smith (2-3) allowed a run, struck out four and walked four against an all-righthanded lineup that included switch-hitters Kendrys Morales and Callaspo. The Angels' only hits against their former farmhand came in the first inning -- a line-drive single through the box by Torii Hunter and an RBI single by Mark Trumbo that followed a walk to Albert Pujols.
"This is a tough lineup to navigate through, and he really got locked in during the fourth inning," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "He had thrown more balls than strikes to that point and his command was off a little bit, but he was wild enough that he was tough to hit. Then he just settled in and really started commanding the ball."
Trumbo and rookie Mike Trout gave their teammates a crash course on Smith before the game, so they could have a clue as to what he throws and when.
"Trout and Trumbo spoke up and gave us a little insight on what this guy was featuring. They were right on point, but we just couldn't get anything going," Hunter said. "He has an over-the-top delivery, like an Iron Mike (pitching machine). He has a little cutter, a changeup, a slider and a curve ball. He threw everything by the kitchen sink."
Jonathan Broxton allowed two singles during a scoreless ninth for his 23rd save in 27 chances.
Garrett Richards (3-2) gave up four runs, five hits and three walks in five innings, including a two-run homer by Lorenzo Cain. The 24-year-old right-hander, who is trying to secure the fifth spot in the Angels' rotation, got the nod this time around after Jerome Williams went 0-5 with a 7.53 ERA in his previous five starts and was relegated to the bullpen.
Williams took over for Richards and scattered four hits over four scoreless innings in his second relief appearance this season.
Richards, who bounced back from two straight rough outings against Toronto and Baltimore with seven innings of three-hit ball in an 11-0 win at Detroit last Tuesday, gave up Cain's third homer of the season after Alex Gordon opened the game with a bloop double inside the left field line.
"I'm trying to get my mentality down to a point where instead of waiting for something to happen, I turn it on. And that's only going to come with more experience and more starts," Richards said. "But I feel like I'm getting better every time out, and I thought I did a pretty good job tonight of not letting this one unravel too much."
Kansas City pushed across two runs in the second. Gordon hit an RBI single, and Chris Getz scored when Alcides Escobar beat second baseman Howie Kendrick's relay throw to first on a potential inning-ending double-play grounder to shortstop.
Angels outfielder Mike Trout was 0-for-3 with a walk as his franchise-record streak of consecutive games with a run scored ended at 15, leaving him tied with Roy Hartsfield of the 1950 Boston Red Sox for the major league-record among rookies. Trout came up three shy of the overall AL mark set by Red Rolfe of the Yankees in 1939 and equaled by Kenny Lofton of the Indians in 2000.
The Angels received two scares Tuesday night.
Albert Pujols, making his eighth start as the designated hitter, swung at an inside pitch in the third inning and was struck on the right elbow. He was examined by trainers before striking out on the next pitch.
Gold Glove outfielder Torri Hunter tried to make a backhanded diving catch on a sinking liner by Eric Hosmer in the sixth, and the ball bounced past him for a triple. Hunter bruised his left ribs on the play and spent several anxious moments on his knees while manager Mike Scioscia and a couple of trainers ran out to check on him before leaving him in the game.
"He hit a line drive, and when I'm running toward the gap, the ball's always in the lights," Hunter said. "It stayed in the lights the whole time and I saw it late, so I had to dive quick to get to it. But I dove funny. I've got a hard belt, and when I fell, it rolled all up in me. I had to fight them to stay in the game. I was bobbing and weaving, and they finally let me stay in and let me get my at-bat."
Hunter led off the bottom of the inning, fouled a pitch hard off his left shin and crumpled to the ground. By the time he got back to his feet, longtime Angels trainer Rick Smith had arrived and the frustrated Hunter shooed him away. He drilled the next pitch just foul down the left field line and lined out to first base one pitch later before Pujols struck out again.
"I didn't ask to come out. I'm tough. I'm one tough cookie," Hunter said. "And if Scioscia lets me get in there tomorrow, I'll be in there. I'm not going to ever go in his office and say `Give me a day off.' I mean, this is baseball. If you don't get banged up, go ice skating or something."