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Richards can't shake early damage in debut

Richards can't shake early damage in debut

Richards can't shake early damage in debut
NEW YORK -- The aura of it all -- making his Major League debut, facing a lineup he'd seen so often on television and admired growing up, on one of baseball's biggest stages -- never really fazed Angels rookie Garrett Richards as he prepared to pitch on Wednesday.

But his psyche never quite accounted for actually toeing the big league rubber for the first time and peering in at that Yankees lineup staring back from the batter's box.

The 23-year-old right-hander did manage to overcome some early hiccups against the Bronx Bombers at Yankee Stadium, but not before New York jumped on Richards for three runs in the first inning en route to a 9-3 victory.

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It was a rude welcome for the young hurler, who took his first loss in stride, vowing to focus on the pleasure of pitching against the Bronx Bombers in his first trip to the Big Apple.

"You walk out, and it kind of takes your breath away for a second, but it was fun making my first MLB start here," said Richards, who arrived on Tuesday night from Double-A Arkansas and pitched in front of more than a dozen family members and friends. "They're a really good team, and you grow up watching all those guys on TV. Being able to throw against them, it was a lot of fun."

It's an interesting adjective to describe the youngster's outing, which accounted for six hits and six runs (including two home runs) in five innings. He walked the first two batters he faced before Curtis Granderson made him pay with a three-run blast over the wall in right-center field.

"He was amped up," catcher Jeff Mathis said of the rookie. "I was trying to get him to breathe and relax and try to make his pitches and throw the ball like he can."

Richards did manage to calm his nerves and retire eight consecutive batters to finish the third inning, but he ran into trouble again in the fourth, surrendering hits to the first three batters of the frame.

"In between that, there were some signs of his talent," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "Terrific arm -- made some good pitches to some good hitters. He settled down after that and pitched much better baseball. But a lot of the damage was already done early."

The Yankees tallied two more runs in the fourth, before Granderson went yard again in the fifth -- his career-best 31st homer of the season -- to up the Yankees' advantage to 6-1 before Richards departed.

"I thought the first two walks were big because we made the young man work hard and put him in a tough situation," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "You can obviously see why the Angels like him; he's got good stuff, he does. But your Major League debut at Yankee Stadium is a tough call."

Joel Pineiro followed with his first relief appearance since Aug. 22, 2008, and was responsible for the Yankees' last three runs of the evening, including a two-run blast by Robinson Cano.

The Angels' offense, meanwhile, couldn't keep up. The Halos first got on the board with a Peter Bourjos solo homer in the fifth, then Torii Hunter led off the seventh with a walk and came around to score on a single by Vernon Wells. Bourjos also grounded into a double play in the seventh, plating one more, for the Angels' final damage of the night.

Yankees starter Ivan Nova pitched his fourth consecutive strong outing, earning his 11th win of the year, which places him first among Major League rookies. In the Angels' clubhouse afterward, it was the other rookie starter reflecting on his milestone outing and one particularly fond memory.

"It was a tremendous honor to be able to pitch in the big leagues, especially with this organization," Richards said. "There are a couple of things I wish would have gone better or gone differently, but probably the best thing that came out of it for me was striking out [Derek Jeter]. That was pretty cool."

Joey Nowak is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @joeynowak. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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