8/6/2014 1:10 A.M. ET
Electric Richards takes wild pitches in stride
By Alden Gonzalez / MLB.com
LOS ANGELES -- Garrett Richards has been great at everything this season -- including throwing wild pitches.
It's a give and take, basically.
Richards' stuff is electric, which baffles hitters but also makes him difficult to catch. He's got a couple of fastballs -- one that tails away from right-handed hitters and one that breaks inside -- that are frequently thrown at 98 or 99 mph. He's got a devastating slider that averages 86.8 mph. And he's got a curveball that drops like an anvil.
"There's not many guys who have 90-mph sliders," catcher Hank Conger said. "So, as far as stuff, I mean, that's just going to come with the territory."
With his shutout of the Dodgers on Monday, Richards moved to 12-4 with a 2.58 ERA in 23 starts of a breakout 2014 season. He also threw two more wild pitches, giving him a Major League-leading 21 on the year. Second place is a three-way tie between Yu Darvish, Felix Hernandez and Edinson Volquez -- each with 13.
Richards isn't concerned with them; he's approaching a record.
The most wild pitches thrown in a single season since 1900 were thrown by Red Ames, who had 30 with the New York Giants in 1905. Richards is on pace for exactly that figure, assuming he starts every fifth game moving forward.
Wild pitches tend to indicate a command issue, but that hasn't necessarily been the case for Richards. He's striking out a career-best 8.9 batters per nine innings, while sporting a walk rate of 2.8, just a tick higher than last year's career low (2.7).
"I think the biggest thing for him is he throws so hard, so that reduces your reaction time as a catcher," catcher Chris Iannetta said. "You have to be on point. And plus he has so much movement. And a lot of times the fastball -- sometimes it cuts, sometimes it sinks. As catchers, we know which one we're going to get, but sometimes he'll throw a pitch at 98 that we expect to cut and it'll sink. It makes it tough."
Hamilton finds power in his toe (tap)
LOS ANGELES -- Josh Hamilton finally got tired of hearing it from his teammates, particularly fellow outfielder Kole Calhoun.
"Bone!" Calhoun would tell Hamilton, a.k.a. Hambone. "I wanna see the toe tap!"
So, the Angels' cleanup hitter finally gave in.
"The toe tap" occurs just before Hamilton kicks his right leg up and gets ready to uncork his swing, an additional component to a complex timing mechanism that often requires maintenance.
Hamilton said he abandoned the toe tap in May 2010, but he reintroduced it during batting practice a couple of weeks ago, incorporated it into games this past weekend in St. Petersburg and -- coincidentally or not -- finally started hitting for power.
During batting practice prior to Monday's Freeway Series opener, the 33-year-old blasted a ball out of Dodger Stadium. Then, in that night's sixth inning, he hit a towering home run off Zack Greinke, giving him three long balls in seven games after managing only two in his previous 46.
"Coming in, working on the same thing every time, you get a little stagnant, you know what I mean?" Hamilton said before going 0-for-3 with a couple of strikeouts against Clayton Kershaw, the ace left-hander who's a really tough matchup for him. "And I've always had the power with the toe tap. I felt like I was in a good, strong, powerful hitting position. It just gives me something to be excited about. Something new, but that I've used in the past and I've been successful at."
The toe tap is partly supposed to slow Hamilton's load and allow him to stay back, which is crucial when you consider the fact he's seen only 37.2 percent fastballs this year -- easily a career low and easily the lowest in the Majors if Hamilton had enough at-bats to qualify.
Ironically, though, Hamilton's toe tap went on a four-year hiatus because he wasn't staying back.
"That's why baseball's a weird game, man," said Hamilton, who entered Tuesday's matchup against Clayton Kershaw with a .288/.358/.450 slash line, eight homers and 35 RBIs in 62 games.
"It's probably the best we've seen him swing the bat in batting practice since he's been here," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "He's been working with it, he's taking it into the game, and I think you're seeing that bat speed that we're accustomed to seeing. Hopefully it's going to translate into a terrific finish for Josh this season, because he's important to us."
• There's still no timetable for Angels starter Tyler Skaggs, who's currently on the disabled list with a strain in his left forearm. Asked about where he's at, manager Mike Scioscia said: "It's a process, just to see where it is, so we'll let it calm down first."
• Utility man Grant Green, sidelined with a lumbar strain since July 21, is rehabbing in Arizona and Scioscia said he's "just at the baby steps of baseball activities," merely taking swings off a tee at this point.
• Monday's Freeway Series opener was the second-most-watched Angels telecast ever on FOX Sports West, a figure that was partly inflated by the fact many Dodgers fans are still unable to watch the team's SportsNet LA broadcast. The most-watched Angels game on FOX Sports West occurred on June 22, 1998, also against the Dodgers.
• Right-hander David Carpenter, who was designated for assignment on Saturday, cleared waivers and has been outrighted to Triple-A Salt Lake. The 26-year-old threw three scoreless innings in his lone appearance with the Angels this season and has a 2.25 ERA in 36 Minor League appearances.
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.