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TEX@LAA: Richards strikes out five over seven strong

When the season began, many thought a late-season matchup between the Angels and Blue Jays would have postseason implications.

Neither team has met expectations, but Thursday's matchup will feature a pair of pitchers looking to build off recent momentum.

Seeking the sweep, the Angels will send Garrett Richards, who has a 2.96 ERA in nine starts since replacing Joe Blanton in the rotation, to the mound.

Richards struggled with control in three consecutive outings, but he is coming off a start against the Rangers in which he gave up just two runs (one earned) in seven innings and retired 14 of the last 17 batters he faced.

"Everything he's done up to this point has made him the most prepared he's been for this opportunity in his life," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "I think that going to the bullpen helped him a little bit, helped us at times. Getting back into the rotation the second time, it seems like it's clicking for him better. I think everything happens for a reason, and I think he definitely trusts his stuff."

Meanwhile, J.A. Happ will take the ball for Toronto, looking to win back-to-back starts for the first time since April 6 and 12.

Happ snapped a three-start losing streak his last time out and allowed just one unearned run against the Twins in 5 2/3 innings.

"The gameplan was to come out and mix it up early and try to pound the strike zone," Happ said after his last outing, when the Blue Jays gave him a five-run lead in the first inning. "Having a lead like that definitely helps. [The lead] is something you don't think about a ton, but you're definitely more loose and more confident to throw those pitches."

On Thursday, it'll simply be a matter of repeating the process.

Angels: Nelson progressing
On Aug. 28, Chris Nelson strained his right hamstring and his season appeared to be over. However, the third baseman has been making steady progress and may be activated from the DL next week.

"It's a great bounce-back for him," Scioscia said. "Hamstrings, like we say, have a mind of their own. You never know. You get some, they last for two months. You get some that look like they're going to be for two months, and they're three weeks."

Nelson has been taking batting practice, fielding ground balls and can participate in agility drills. However, he still needs to run full speed before he returns to the field.

Blue Jays: Club monitoring Encarnacion's wrist
Edwin Encarnacion has missed three straight games with a sprained left wrist, and the Blue Jays are unsure of when he will return.

"He's still day to day," manager John Gibbons said. "He feels better, but he's still not good enough to play."

Encarnacion aggravated his wrist during Saturday's game and will not return to the lineup until he tests it during batting practice or in the batting cage.

Worth noting
• Richards has appeared in four games and pitched 12 2/3 innings against the Blue Jays in his career. The 25-year old is 1-2 with a 5.68 ERA.

• Happ does not have a lot of experience against any of the Angels. Only Josh Hamilton (five plate appearances), Chris Iannetta (four plate appearances) and John Hester (three plate appearances) have ever faced Happ.

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