HOUSTON -- Astros manager Bo Porter heaped praise on both pitchers Wednesday night, saying his team ran into a buzz saw in Angels starter Garrett Richards while acknowledging Jarred Cosart perhaps threw the ball as well as he has all season.
The reality for Porter is it might not have mattered who was on the mound for the Astros considering the dominant performance of Richards, who threw eight scoreless innings and struck out a career-high-tying nine batters in the Angels' 4-0 win at Minute Maid Park.
"Some nights you've just got to tip your cap to the other guy," Porter said. "This is one of those nights. He had electric stuff tonight, from the first pitch till he left the game in the eighth, and it was 96, 97 [mph] with a wipeout slider. I think I looked up there at one point and he had 33 strikes and three balls. That's what you call dominating stuff."
Richards, who lasted just two-thirds of an inning in his previous start Friday in Oakland, held the Astros to four hits and no walks and hit two batters. The Astros were shut out for the sixth time and were limited to five hits or fewer for the fourth time in their last six games.
"As a pitcher, you have to have a short memory and get ready for the next one," Richards said. "I've had a good year so far and I wasn't going to let that start affect me. Just coming out here and giving my best effort and pounding zone."
Richards (5-2) threw 80 of 107 pitches for strikes, becoming the first Angels pitcher since Nolan Ryan in 1972 to strike out the side on nine pitches when he did it in the second inning. The 74.8 percent strike percentage by Richards was the highest of his career.
"He was really tough," said Astros second baseman Jose Altuve, who went 1-for-4. "I think he had good command of his slider today, and fastball, and he was mixing everything. We were aggressive and tried to look for one pitch to hit, but his slider today was real, real good."
After the game, Cosart took to Twitter to credit Richards, writing: "Dude was filthy tonite."
Cosart (5-4) was all over the strike zone as well, throwing 75 of 108 pitches for strikes. He walked only one batter in 6 2/3 innings, which marked his fewest walks since he didn't walk anyone in his first start of the season April 2 against the Yankees.
Cosart allowed eight hits and three runs while striking out a career-high-tying eight batters. He's allowed three runs or fewer in eight consecutive starts, six of which have been quality starts.
"If he continues to throw the ball like that, we're going to win a lot games on the nights that he pitches," Porter said. "It was sharp, breaking stuff. It was an explosive fastball. He attacked both sides of the plate, and more impressively today, he finally started to use his changeup, which was very impressive to see, and he used it against both righties and lefties."
While the results weren't there, Cosart said it was perhaps the best stuff he's had all season. He had all three pitches working, including more changeups at the urging of Porter and pitching coach Brent Strom.
"Yeah, we've been making mechanical adjustments, working on stuff all year," Cosart said. "Finally, Bo talked to me earlier this week and said, 'Throw all the stuff you've been working on and just throw all three pitches, and if you throw it for a ball, who cares?' I noticed in the bullpen with Strommy I had a good one going, so I just kind of mixed it in there and it ended up getting me a couple strikeouts and a couple quick outs early in the count. I was pleased with it, and it's something I'm going to use a lot more going forward."
Cosart retired the first 11 batters he faced and 13 of the first 14 before giving up a double down the left-field line in the fifth to David Freese, who slid in safely at second base even though the throw from shortstop Marwin Gonzalez appeared to beat him. He scored one out later on a single by C.J. Cron.
The Angels rallied again in the sixth when Erick Aybar doubled with one out and Albert Pujols drew the only walk of the night against Cosart. Consecutive two-out RBI singles by Howie Kendrick and Freese pushed the lead to 3-0.
"A couple mistakes got hit, whether they were hard or not, they were still hits," Cosart said. "Cron hit a curveball off the ground almost there late. Like I said, some stuff didn't go how I would've liked, but I can take a lot of positives. [Bench coach] Dave Trembley thought I threw better today than in my debut [July 12, 2013], and I agree, stuff-wise. I had three pitches today, instead of just two. Like I said, a lot I can build on going forward and there was a lot of positives."
Dexter Fowler led off the game with a fly ball to right field that went past a diving Kole Calhoun. Fowler would have had a triple easily, but the ball rolled under the right-field wall for a ground-rule double. Fowler made it to third but was stranded as Richards sent down the next eight batters he faced.
"I was like, 'Y'all might as well just give me a triple, if not an inside-the-parker,'" Fowler joked, before turning serious. "That guy pitched his butt off. He located and he was nasty."