Mike Scioscia knows Garrett Richards is a better pitcher than he's shown of late.
Trying to remain confident amid his rough stretch, the Los Angeles Angels right-hander tries to bounce back from the worst start of his career Thursday night against the host Tampa Bay Rays.
Soon after Richards (5-4, 4.14 ERA) gave up six runs before exiting with two outs in the first inning of Saturday's 8-2 loss to the New York Yankees, Scioscia showed support for his struggling hurler.
''Hopefully, he'll give us a better start next time," the Angels manager said. "He's too good a pitcher not to find it again."
Scioscia is confident Richards can rediscover the form that allowed him to go 3-2 with a 2.29 ERA in his first six outings this year. He's posted a 7.91 ERA while splitting his last four starts.
"I can't hang my head on this,'' Richards said. ''I'm just going through a rough patch right now. I'm not going to sit here and make excuses. It's baseball. This is the big leagues."
The Angels (29-30) have reason to believe Richards can get back on track. He yielded five runs during a first inning he never finished in a 9-5 loss at Oakland last May 30, then went 9-2 with a 1.94 ERA over his next 15 starts before his season ended with a knee injury in August.
"I went on a tear after that," Richards, 13-4 with a 2.61 ERA last year, told MLB's official website. "I know what I bring to the table."
Richards is 2-1 despite a 5.02 ERA in three career starts against the Rays (32-28), who managed three runs in six-plus innings against him in a 7-3 Angels victory June 1.
Los Angeles, however, has since been held to two or fewer runs four times while losing six of seven. The Angels scored both runs in the third of Wednesday's 4-2 defeat.
Starting at third base after being held out the previous three games with a sore wrist, Evan Longoria homered and five pitchers held Los Angeles to seven hits as Tampa Bay won for the eighth time in 11 contests.
''To win games and be the type of team that we want to be, we've got to do that more times than not for sure," manager Kevin Cash said.
Longoria is 1 for 8 against Richards.
Teammate Alex Colome (3-2, 4.54) allowed seven hits and walked three but gave up one run over six innings at Seattle on Saturday, not getting a decision in the 2-1 loss. The right-hander has yielded two or fewer runs in three of his last four outings.
His worst performance in that stretch came against Richards on June 1, when he allowed five runs on three homers over six innings.
Albert Pujols and Mike Trout homered off Colome in that contest.
Trout is batting .375 with six RBIs in eight career games at Tropicana Field.