LA Angels rotation faces serious questions after injury blow

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The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim might have seen their playoff chances dwindle right before their eyes on Wednesday night. 

On a routine ground ball to the right side in the second inning of a game against the Boston Red Sox, Angels starter Garrett Richards suffered a leg injury on his way over to first base. The starting pitcher twisted his left knee and crumbled to the ground before he reached the bag. The fluke injury has been diagnosed as a left knee patella injury. But the severity of the injury has not been released to the public yet.

It certainly did not look good, though. Richards stayed down for several minutes before a cart at Fenway Park had to pick him up and usher him to seek further diagnosis. Richards' teammates were visibly shook. Surely they felt for their starting pitcher, but they probably also could not help thinking about how the injury may impact their postseason chances. 

Richards enjoying superb season

If, indeed, Richards' season is cut short, he will not be able to play out what has been by far his finest season as a pro. Teaming up with Jered Weaver, Richards emerged as an ace for Los Angeles this season and was considered one of the first few "snubs" when it came to the American League All-Star roster. His numbers certainly support as much.

The 26-year-old averages the highest pitch velocity of any starting pitcher in the American League. And he had compiled a 13-4 record with a 2.61 ERA prior to Wednesday's abbreviated outing at Fenway Park. The hard-throwing righty has thrived this season using essentially just a fastball and slider. He was set to overtake Weaver for the team's lead in innings pitched before the injury. He also leads the team in strikeouts and wins above replacement, where he has accumulated more than double the number of WAR that the next closest LA pitcher. 

Pressure on pitching

With the Angels' focus on pitching around the trade deadline, Los Angeles elected to bolster the bullpen by adding Huston Street and Jason Grilli. The decision put a lot of pressure on their trio of Weaver, CJ Wilson and Richards. Now, with Richards potentially out for an extended period of time, the rotation looks somewhat inferior next to the power pitching in Oakland and Detroit. With Tyler Skaggs undergoing Tommy John surgery a week ago, it looks like Los Angeles will put its faith in playoff novices Hector Santiago and Matt Shoemaker. 

Until speculation is confirmed, there is not a whole lot of reason to begin assuming what will happen in LA. But if Richards can't return this season, management may be kicking itself for not being more aggressive at the deadline. And might even get desperate when it comes to making a waiver deal. 

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