With Chris Sale continuing to move closer to rehab pitching and looking as though he will return to the Red Sox sooner than later, Garrett Richards’s spot in the rotation becomes in jeopardy. In his final start before the All-Star break, Richards needed a good performance, and he put on one of his best of the year.
Richards used all four of his pitches to keep batters guessing on Friday night against the Phillies. He threw five innings, allowing three runs (all earned), seven hits, walking one, and threw four strikeouts over 85 pitches. He earned his fifth win of the year and threw three scoreless innings in the 11-5 win.
“He did a good job using his breaking ball, keeping them off balance,” Cora said. “Five [innings] was enough tonight, and the last two [games] have been solid. He went through that stretch where he struggled, but overall, I think it was a good first part of the season.”
Even with his impressive performance Richards didn’t get off to the best start.
Jean Segura hit a slider into center field for a triple on Richards’s fifth pitch of the game. On the next pitch, J.T. Realmuto doubled off the Green Monster, sending Segura home. Richards put a stop to the bleeding by getting Bryce Harper to ground out, then striking out Andrew McCutchen and Brad Miller.
Richards didn’t carry his momentum from the end of the first into the second inning but also didn’t get help from the defense when he needed it after a single from Rhys Hoskins. Didi Gregorius singled into right field but got to second base after Enrique Hernàndez couldn’t secure the ball in left field. Alec Bohm singled into right field, driving in Hoskins and Gregorius to give the Phillies a 3-2 lead.
Richards got outs on the next three batters, the last being a strikeout on Realmuto to end the inning. From there, he pitched three scoreless innings before handing over the ball to manager Alex Cora.
Richards said that he has reinvented himself since MLB’s crackdown on foreign substances.
“It’s either adapt or die at this point,” Richards said. “The good pitchers are going to figure out a way to be successful. I would like to think I’ve been in the league a long time, and I’m not here because I use rosin and sunscreen but because I’m a good pitcher.”
Cora added that Richards’s early struggles haven’t come from foreign substances.
“That didn’t come from sunscreen and rosin. He’s been doing that from day one here,” Cora said. “This is not the first time he’s given up runs in the first two innings and finished strong. The fact that he was able to put up some zeroes was huge for us.”
Richards allowed two hits from the third to the fifth innings and none in the fourth. In the fourth, Travis Jankowski grounded out to Richards; he juggled the ball but quickly recovered and got the ball to Xander Bogaerts, who turned it into a double play.
Richards said the last five starts have been “a figuring out period” for him.
“I’m learning new things about myself and about pitching,” Richards said, “I’m starting to get more comfortable with it. A lot of good has come out of this; I wouldn’t say it’s all bad. I’ve learned a lot in the past few weeks. Things are trending in the right direction. I’m growing as a pitcher and just trying to adapt and win a game every time my name is on the lineup card.”
The win was Richards’s first since May 19 against the Blue Jays. He pitched 6⅔ innings and struck out five in the Sox’ 7-2 win. Friday night was Richards’s third straight game pitching into the fifth inning; he has only pitched less than five innings four times this season.
Cora said he was impressed with how Richards pitched inside to righthanded batters throughout the game and said he will need to continue throwing that way for the rest of the season. He says Richards’s demeanor has changed, and it’s shown in the way he has pitched in the past two games.
“The way he’s talking, the way he’s acting, there’s more confidence there,” Cora said. “Hopefully, this is something for him to keep building off of.”