Garrett Richards may not be thinking too much about the American League Cy Young Award race in late July, but he'd have every reason to do so.
The 26-year-old right-hander is 11-3 with a 2.62 ERA thanks in large part to his unprecedented increased fastball velocity. This season, Richards is averaging 96.3 mph, second-fastest among qualifying starting pitchers (trailing only Yordano Ventura of the Royals) and nearly two full ticks faster than last year's mark (94.8 mph).
It's why that even when Richards doesn't earn a victory -- like in his last two starts since the All-Star break -- he's still been highly effective, allowing just five runs over 14 innings in that span.
"There's a lot of guys having good years this year," said Richards, who takes the ball on Wednesday night against the Orioles. "The top 10 pitchers in the AL, or even in baseball, are putting up ridiculous numbers this year. I'm not concentrating on individual goals. I just want to win every time I go out and pitch. Obviously, I don't want to give up any runs and I don't want to walk anybody. I want to strike everybody out. In an ideal world, I just want to go out and win a ballgame. That's where my focus is at."
The Orioles should have some confidence facing Richards considering they knocked Angels ace Jered Weaver around for six runs over five innings in Tuesday's 7-6 walk-off win in the series opener. That came after winning an extra-innings affair with the Mariners last week, opposing arguably the best pitcher in the game in Felix Hernandez.
The starter responsible for matching Hernandez is 23-year-old Kevin Gausman, who took a 103-pitch no-decision in his second-longest outing this season (6 2/3 innings), scattering seven hits and three walks, while navigating out of several jams. Gausman will try to help the O's secure a series win vs. the Halos.
"I'm a fan of pitchers and good pitchers, and [Hernandez is] probably the best in baseball right now," Gausman said after the victory. "The last couple years, he's been pretty unbelievable, so I definitely knew I was going to have to have my 'A' game."
Gausman will try to bring that "A" game again vs. Richards, who's aiming to get back into the win column for the first time since July 11.
Angels: Scioscia still a believer in divisional play
A lot of season remains and a lot can still happen, but if the schedule ended Tuesday, the Angels would easily have the second-best record in the Majors -- they were five games better than the third-place Tigers when play began on Tuesday -- and still their season would come down to one game.
It's the misfortune that comes with residing in the same American League West division as baseball's best team -- the A's, who the Angels trailed by 1 1/2 games entering Tuesday -- and it's the bad timing of playing in an era with two Wild Card teams in each league.
Manager Mike Scioscia has long been a proponent of divisional play, believing division winners should have clear advantages over those that make the playoffs via the Wild Card. And the fact that his club is on the other side of that isn't making him change his stance.
"I think the weight that is on winning a division is warranted," Scioscia said on Tuesday. "I think that if you're going to have divisional baseball, you have to really make winning a division the first objective of any team that's contending. And if you don't quite reach that goal, and you play well enough, then you have the opportunity to work your way into the playoffs."
Orioles: Davis out of Tuesday's lineup
Dealing with flu-like symptoms, Chris Davis didn't play in the series opener against the Angels. The slugger was sent home for the day.
"He was sick all day yesterday and didn't seem to be making a marked improvement," manager Buck Showalter said on Tuesday. "It's infectious, and I didn't want him to pass it around the clubhouse."
Davis was nauseous and vomiting after the team's West Coast trip, Showalter said, so head athletic trainer Richie Bancells sent him home to avoid the illness from spreading.
"That's one of the things about traveling all over the country," Showalter said. "I hope it's an isolated case. We'll see."
• Since June 6, the Angels lead the Majors with a 32-14 record. The Angels' best record through 105 games was 65-40 in 2009. They're 63-42 this season after Tuesday's defeat.
• Matt Wieters was at Camden Yards on Tuesday and has had the immobilizer removed from his right arm. The catcher is expected to travel with the Orioles for the remainder of the season.
• Entering Tuesday, Mike Trout led the Majors with 59 extra-base hits and 229 total bases.
Jake Kring-Schreifels is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.