Angels first baseman Albert Pujols can tell how dominating flame-throwing right-hander Garrett Richards is by the conversations he has been having with opposing players who reach base this season.
"When you've got hitters who come to first and say how unbelievable he is, you know he's nasty," Pujols said. "Garrett has been outstanding. Look at the numbers. Look at what he's done, not just in the last three weeks but all season. The guy is electric. He throws 97, 98 mph with a nasty slider. The guy's amazing."
Richards, 26, threw another gem Sunday, giving up one run and six hits in 71/3 innings, striking out 11, a career high, and walking one to lead the Angels to a 6-1 victory that completed a four-game sweep of the Houston Astros and gave the Angels their first 10-game home winning streak since 1996.
Richards improved to 10-2 with a 2.71 earned-run average and 119 strikeouts in 1161/3 innings, and he has held opponents to an American League-low .196 average (83 for 423).
But when teams were announced Sunday for the July 15 All-Star game in Minnesota, Richards was not among the AL selections, and neither was slick-fielding shortstop Erick Aybar, who is hitting .278 with six home runs, 21 doubles, 45 runs and 43 runs batted in, most among AL shortstops.
While the AL West-leading Oakland Athletics put six players on the AL team, the Angels, who at 51-36 have the third-best record in the majors, had only one, center fielder Mike Trout, who was voted by fans as a starter for the second consecutive year.
Richards was one of five pitchers put on the "final five" ballot, which gives fans the chance to vote for the last player on the team.
The others are Chicago's Chris Sale, who, at 8-1 with a 2.16 ERA, might have an even better argument than Richards for making the team; Detroit's Rick Porcello, Houston's Dallas Keuchel and Cleveland's Corey Kluber.
Richards could be added to the team if a pitcher drops out because of injury or is unable to participate because he pitches next Sunday. Richards is scheduled to pitch Friday, so he would be in line to pitch in the All-Star game.
"It's a little disapointing, but there's still a chance," Richards said. "I've had a pretty good first half, but more importantly, we're playing good baseball as a team. I'm more concerned with the team's overall record than myself. I'll take a World Series over an All-Star game any day."
Aybar, who was edged out by Chicago's Alexei Ramirez for the backup shortstop spot, has been solid, and sometimes spectacular, on defense, showing superb range, a strong arm and the athletic ability to make the wide variety of acrobatic and off-balance throws.
The switch-hitter was batting .175 on April 21, but after making a slight adjustment in his stance, he is hitting .303 (81 for 268) in his last 68 games, including a single, stolen base and a run in Sunday's victory. In his ninth year, Aybar has not made an All-Star team.
"I'm pretty disappointed," said Pujols, a nine-time All-Star. "I think Aybar should be an All-Star."
Added Manager Mike Scioscia: "Erick Aybar, without question, is an All-Star."
There was no denying Trout, who received the most votes in player balloting. The AL most-valuable-player runner-up in 2012 and 2013, Trout has put together an MVP-caliber first half, hitting .308 with a team-leading 20 home runs, 63 RBIs, 58 runs and a 1.005 on-base-plus slugging percentage.
But the 22-year-old slugger decided to turn down an invitation from Toronto's Jose Bautista to participate in the home run derby.
"Albert and a bunch of guys said I should do it, and maybe later in my career, I'll get another opportunity to do it and will," Trout said. "But I just want to be able to enjoy it. I always have fun watching it."Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun