After his breakout 2014 season was cut short by a serious knee injury, Garrett Richards was determined to come back just as effective this year.
True to his words, Richards tries to earn a third straight victory Sunday against the visiting Houston Astros.
Richards (2-1. 2.52 ERA) never wallowed or felt sorry for himself while recovering from the Aug. 20 injury that ended a stellar season in which he went 13-4 with a 2.61 ERA in 26 starts. Instead, the right-hander worked hard to regain his physical form while mentally believing he would pick up where he left off.
"I worked extremely hard this offseason," Richards told MLB's official website. "I'm not surprised at anything that's going on. I knew as soon as I got hurt that I'd be able to return to my normal form. That's what I believed in my heart, and that's what I believed all offseason.
"That's the mindset I had all offseason, and now I'm starting to see the reward."
Since giving up four runs, five hits and walking four in five innings of a 4-3 loss at Houston (20-11) in his season debut April 19, Richards has allowed four runs, 12 hits and walked eight over 20 innings to go 2-0 in three starts. He yielded one run in seven innings while not factoring in the decision of a 5-4 win over Seattle on Tuesday.
Richards will try to help the Angels (14-17) earn a split of this four-game series after falling 6-5 on Saturday.
Jose Altuve hit one of three home runs for Houston, which improved to 4-2 versus Los Angeles this season. The Astros, who lead the AL with 45 home runs, had only two while dropping four of their previous five.
''That type of power is capable every single day, any pitcher, any ballpark,'' Houston manager A.J. Hinch said.
Altuve is 5 for 11 in the series after going 1 for 13 in the previous four contests. The two-time All-Star second baseman and Colby Rasmus, who also homered Saturday, are each batting .364 against Richards.
Houston's Scott Feldman (2-3, 5.50) allowed three or fewer runs in four of his first five starts but was tagged for six and nine hits over three innings of a 7-1 loss to Texas on Tuesday.
''I just went out there and did terrible,'' the right-hander said. ''I've got to try to iron that out in between my next start.''
Feldman is 1-1 in his last three starts against the Angels, giving up two runs over six innings of each. He yielded a two-run homer to C.J. Cron in the fourth inning while beating Richards last month.
Erick Aybar is hitting .424 (14 for 33) with three triples and two doubles versus Feldman.
Aybar drove in two runs Saturday for Los Angeles, which got within a run in the ninth before Albert Pujols' fielder's choice ended the game with two on.
''With this lineup, I don't care how many runs we're behind,'' second baseman Johnny Giavotella said. ''We still feel like we have a chance to win. We have a lot of perseverance on this team, and we play hard baseball.''