Angels-Athletics Preview

Garrett Richards refused to dwell on one of the worst starts of his career earlier this month and has been sharp ever since.

Scott Kazmir will want to focus on how well he's pitched at home rather than his struggles against his former team.

Richards looks to help the visiting Los Angeles Angels take two of three in the series when he faces Kazmir and the Oakland Athletics on Sunday.

Since lasting a career low-tying two-thirds of an inning and allowing six runs in an 8-2 loss to the New York Yankees on June 6, Richards (7-4, 3.59 ERA) has allowed two earned runs over 14 innings while winning his last two starts.

The right-hander credited coach Dave Butcher for not allowing him to get down on himself.

"I mean, that was two starts ago," Richards said of the outing against the Yankees. "Some days you're gonna have it and some days you don't. Some guys are gonna clip you, sometimes you're gonna get lucky. But that doesn't take away from or change the way I pitch. I'm trying to throw the ball down in the zone and get ahead of guys."

Richards has more than held his own in his last two starts against the A's, allowing one run in seven innings of a 4-1 win Sept. 9 and beating them 6-5 on April 30 after giving up one run in six-plus innings.

Kazmir (3-4, 2.84) hasn't had nearly that kind of success against the Angels (35-34), for whom he pitched parts of two seasons. His last pitch with the club in 2011 forced an injury that required Tommy John surgery, leading to him sitting out all of 2012.

The left-hander has struggled against his former team since returning, losing all three starts with a 22.09 ERA and not lasting more than three innings in any of them.

This start, however, comes at home where Kazmir is 2-1 with a 1.27 ERA and no homers allowed in six outings. He's 1-3 with a 4.20 ERA and seven home runs surrendered in seven on the road.

Erick Aybar has gone 5 for 5 and Kole Calhoun 3 for 4 off Kazmir since his return from injury. They each went 1 for 4 in Saturday's 4-1 loss to the A's (30-41), one day after the Angels rallied to take the series opener 12-7.

Stephen Vogt had one of Oakland's five doubles, and Josh Reddick, who is 6 for 15 in his career off Richards, had the go-ahead RBI double in a three-run sixth. Reddick went 1 for 14 over his previous three.

The A's also got another lift from rookie Billy Burns, who went 2 for 5 and is hitting .388 during an 11-game hitting streak. Burns, who has been filling in for the injured Coco Crisp in center field and in the leadoff spot, has hit safely in 23 of his last 24 while also providing solid defense for an Oakland club that leads the majors with 70 errors.

''It's tough to even describe how important he's been for us,'' manager Bob Melvin said of Burns, who entered the day leading AL rookies in hits, stolen bases and multi-hit games. ''(Crisp), that's a guy we not only rely on to be our leadoff guy and hold down that position but a guy that got clutch hits for us. Billy's doing all that.''

Ike Davis has gone 1 for 7 while starting back-to-back games at first base since coming off the disabled list with a quad strain, but Billy Butler pinch-hit for him in the seventh Saturday. It's unclear if Davis will play in the series finale.

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