The 24-year-old Richards faced a red-hot Tigers squad that had lost one game in the previous nine and has scored the most runs in July. Richards, just recalled from Triple-A Salt Lake, held them scoreless through seven innings.
Afterward, Richards called it "one of those special nights. I had everything working. I had the curveball, slider was good, glove-side fastball was good, and my sinker was on tonight. When you put all those together and you command the zone, you're going to have a good night."
It was impressive enough that manager Mike Scioscia sent Jerome Williams to the bullpen upon Dan Haren's return from the disabled list, rather than remove Richards from the rotation.
"Garrett's not a finished product, but he has that electric arm," Scioscia said.
The Angels' top pitching prospect of 2011 -- according to MLB.com -- now gets another American League Central opponent in the Royals. He's never faced them in his short career.
Royals starter Will Smith know what it's like to be in Richards' shoes, as he is considered a bright young prospect himself -- he's ranked No. 14 in the Royals' system by MLB.com. However, it hasn't been a smooth transition to the big leagues for Smith (1-3, 7.97 ERA).
"We want to see Will Smith continue to develop," manager Ned Yost said. "He's a 22-year-old left-hander who we think has a chance to be a solid back end of the rotation starter at the big league level on a real good team."
He did toss 6 1/3 innings in his latest loss to Seattle but allowed four runs on eight hits. And the Mariners lineup didn't exactly feature a Mike Trout, Mark Trumbo or Albert Pujols-like bat.
Royals: Smith facing his former team
Smith's ERA is indicative of a poor start to his young career, but he's faced some difficult challenges in only four career starts. Smith's Major League debut on May 23 came vs. the Yankees in New York -- it was also his first time in the city. And his last start came in 98-degree heat against Felix Hernandez, who extended his scoreless streak to 19 2/3 innings.
Tuesday will present a different type of challenge. Smith will be facing his former team. Although he never played above the Triple-A level, the right-hander spent more than two years in the Angels' farm system. He was drafted in the seventh round of the 2008 First-Year Player Draft before being traded in 2010 to Kansas City for Alberto Callaspo.
Royals right-hander Kyle Zimmer, the team's top Draft choice this year, has already started progressing in the Minors. Zimmer pitched three games in the Rookie classification Arizona League, allowing one run on five hits in 10 innings. And his success earned him a quick promotion to Class A Kane County.
Zimmer was the club's fifth overall pick last month and signed on June 7 for a $3 million bonus.
Angels: Angels still unsure with Aybar
The Angels are still waiting to decide what actions to take with injured shortstop Erick Aybar, who underwent an X-ray that showed a "line" in his right big toe. It hasn't been determined whether it's a fracture. But if it is, Aybar will likely be placed on the disabled list.
"If he can improve enough, hopefully we can avoid the disabled list, but he's still sore," Scioscia said.
The Angels called up top prospect Jean Segura during Aybar's absence. Segura gives the team depth in the middle infield.
Scioscia is taking a new approach with struggling right-hander Ervin Santana (4-10, 6.00 ERA). Santana has one quality start in his past four games and hasn't tallied a win since June 16.
Therefore, Scioscia is putting Santana on a rare out count, a strategy he's deployed before with Scott Kazmir and Aaron Sele. Santana will pitch only 15 outs, if he makes it that far, in his next outing.
"I think this is more of a tool just to get him to not worry about saving anything for later in the game, and right now we're in a position where we need him to move forward," Scioscia said.
With a run in the bottom of the third inning Monday, Trout extended his franchise and rookie record to 15 consecutive games with a run scored. The American League record is 18 games, set by Red Rolfe (1939) and Kenny Lofton (2000).
The Halos own a 59-30 record vs. Kansas City over the past 10 seasons. However, the Royals took the 2011 season series (7-3) for the second time in the last 15 years.