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Richards, Pujols lead Angels past Diamondbacks 2-0

Arizona Diamondbacks starting pitcher Ian Kennedy throws to the Los Angeles Angels during the second inning of a baseball game in Anaheim, Calif., Sunday, June 17, 2012. Arizona Diamondbacks starting pitcher Ian Kennedy throws to the Los Angeles Angels during the second inning of a baseball game in Anaheim, Calif., Sunday, June 17, 2012. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)
By Greg Beacham
AP Sports Writer / June 17, 2012
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ANAHEIM, Calif.—After a quiet weekend at Angel Stadium, the Arizona Diamondbacks headed back to Phoenix hoping to snap out of a slump that not even Ian Kennedy could overcome.

Garrett Richards pitched four-hit ball into the ninth inning against the punchless Diamondbacks, combining with Ernesto Frieri on the Los Angeles Angels' 2-0 win Sunday and Arizona's third shutout loss in five games.

The Diamondbacks totaled five hits in consecutive shutout losses in Anaheim, starting with Ervin Santana's one-hitter on Saturday. Arizona hasn't scored in 21 straight innings, finishing a 2-4 road trip with another disappointment that left the clubhouse awfully somber.

"This is kind of a recurring theme for us," manager Kirk Gibson said. "Not to take anything away from (Richards), but we've obviously got to make some adjustments. ... It's frustrating, but we'll regroup and we'll get home."

Although Arizona repeatedly threatened against Richards (2-0), the 24-year-old was resourceful with his nasty fastball. The Angels got just enough hits and big defensive plays to beat Kennedy, who couldn't have been much better while allowing six hits and going the distance.

Kennedy (5-7), pitching just a few miles from his Huntington Beach hometown, didn't walk a batter and struck out six while bouncing back impressively from a poor start in Texas. But Albert Pujols hit his 10th homer of the season in the fourth inning on a good pitch, and rookie Mike Trout added an RBI double in the seventh.

A 21-game winner last season, Kennedy has lost seven of his last nine starts -- and his teammates' struggles left him without much margin for error.

"Ian threw a great game, too, but we just couldn't put any runs on the board for him," said Chris Young, who was 0 for 3 with a walk. "Guys are grinding, but maybe we're pressing a little bit too much. We have to make adjustments faster than we are."

Pujols and Trout managed just one hit apiece in the three-game series, but the veteran slugger and the rookie speedster combined to frustrate Arizona in the rubber game.

Pujols also made a sparkling defensive play in the fifth, gloving Josh Bell's screaming grounder at his feet and completing a double play to erase an Arizona threat.

"You don't practice that," Pujols said with a grin.

"The reality is, it's self-defense," Gibson said with frustration.

Trout ended a 1-for-20 slump as the Angels posted their major league-best ninth shutout victory behind Richards, who's jockeying for a job in the rotation even after ace Jered Weaver returns from injury.

"Most of the guys getting on the base with me were saying, `Man, where did this kid come from?'" said Pujols, who has nine homers and 26 RBIs since May 15. "He's so young, and he's already got the stuff, which is good, because you can't teach that."

Richards repeatedly escaped trouble in the longest start of his career, striking out five and walking four. Despite occasional lapses in control, he has thrown 12 straight scoreless innings while capitalizing on a chance to start for the Angels as Weaver recovers from lower-back pain.

"I'm up here to take advantage of my opportunities," Richards said. "I feel that I'm ready to stick here and help this team win, and it's just a matter of getting opportunities. They're going to make a good decision, and that's all I can ask for."

Richards left after walking Miguel Montero on four pitches to open the ninth, but Frieri got three straight outs for his seventh save.

Pujols led off the fourth with his 455th career homer, hitting the bottom of the fake rock pile beyond center field. The three-time NL MVP has the game's best interleague batting average since 2001, but was hitless in the first two games against Arizona after an eight-game hitting streak that included seven multihit games.

Richards retired 10 straight between Pujols' double-play turn and Willie Bloomquist's two-out single in the eighth when shortstop Erick Aybar couldn't handle a grounder. Jason Kubel added another single, but Pujols ended the inning by tracking down Justin Upton's foul pop next to the Diamondbacks' dugout, reaching far into the television camera well and bobbling the ball before controlling it.

"He flipped it up in the air and he caught it," said Gibson, who was a few feet away. "It didn't touch anything. Trust me, I wish it had."

NOTES: Peter Bourjos scored on Trout's double in the seventh, snapping an 0-for-20 Angels skid with runners in scoring position. ... Kennedy became a father for the second time a week ago.

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