OAKLAND (AP) — Garrett Richards pitched beautifully while making his first appearance in 11 months after an elbow injury cut short his 2016 season, but left abruptly in the fifth inning with biceps cramping before the Los Angeles Angels beat the Oakland Athletics 5-0 on Wednesday night.
Angels manager Mike Scioscia and the training staff rushed to the mound after Richards threw a 94 mph called strike to Matt Joyce with two outs in the fifth. Richards was removed from the game, one out shy of being eligible for the win, and slugger Albert Pujols put an arm around the pitcher in the dugout.
The team announced he came out for precautionary reasons.
Richards struck out four and walked one, allowing three hits in 4 2/3 innings. JC Ramirez (1-0) worked 2 2/3 innings for the victory.
After the game, Scioscia said he’s hopeful Richards can make his next start. The right-hander will be checked by doctors once the club returns to Southern California.
Mike Trout hit an RBI single to back Richards, the Angels’ opening day starter a year ago. He pitched for the first time since last May 1.
Danny Espinosa hit a two-run single one night after delivering a deciding three-run homer, and Andrelton Simmons doubled home a run in the second against Jharel Cotton (0-1).
The 25-year-old Cotton, who came to the A’s in a trade-deadline deal last year that sent Rich Hill and Josh Reddick to the Dodgers, can feel good about striking out Trout twice on seven pitches. Cotton allowed eight hits and five runs, struck out four and walked two in 4 1/3 innings.
This marked his first major league loss after going 2-0 over five starts in 2016.
Frankie Montas — who arrived in that same trade — pitched 2 2/3 scoreless innings in his A’s debut.
The AL West rivals had split the first two games of the season.
Angels: RHP Matt Shoemaker came out fine from Tuesday’s outing, his first in exactly seven months since being struck in the head by a line drive and needing surgery. “I think it’s good he can exhale. He got the first one out of the way,” Scioscia said. “I think like any starter, your first start is like opening day. It’s probably, obviously, more focus on it to what happened to Matt last year. He was fine.” ... Scioscia plans to start Carlos Perez behind the plate in Thursday afternoon’s series finale to spell starting catcher Martin Maldonado.
Athletics: RHP John Axford was placed on the 10-day DL, retroactive to Sunday, with a strained right shoulder. He experienced tightness after throwing a curveball warming up Tuesday night. Axford had no issues leading up to the injury. “None, zero,” manager Bob Melvin said. “It was a complete surprise not only to us but to him.” RHP Jesse Hahn was recalled from Triple-A Nashville and will be used “for a little bit more length to have a starter back there,” Melvin said. ... A’s starter Chris Bassitt threw to hitters for the first time since Tommy John surgery last May. He threw 25 pitches, all fastballs, after his warmup. “The first time you had nerves and the first time you had adrenaline in nine months. Good feeling to have,” said Bassitt, who threw about 10 bullpens before Wednesday’s session. Bassitt is scheduled to pitch to hitters again Sunday at Class A Stockton and expects to be pitching in rehab games next month.
LHP Tyler Skaggs makes his third career start against the A’s and first since 2014, opposing Andrew Triggs as the Oakland right-hander begins his second major league season after making his first opening day roster.
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