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Angels' latest pitching injury could be the one that sinks their season

The Los Angeles Angels started the season with a six-man rotation. Now, they’re down to three. Garrett Richards has decided to undergo Tommy John surgery, according to J.P. Hoornstra of the Southern California News Group. He’ll miss the rest of the year.

The 30-year-old Richards was in the midst of a solid season with Los Angeles. In 76 1/3 innings, Richards had a 3.66 ERA.

Losing Garrett Richards is a big blow to the Angels’ chances

While Richards wasn’t pitching like an ace, the loss is significant for the Angels. The team’s rotation has been decimated by injuries in 2018, and Richards was one of the few useful pitchers the team had left.

The Angels’ rotation has been hit hard by injuries this season

With Richards down, the team needs to scramble for replacements. The team will start Tyler Skaggs on Thursday, Felix Peña on Friday and Andrew Heaney on Saturday. After that, the rotation is listed as “To Be Announced” on MLB.com.

The team’s disabled list is currently filled with five players who have made starts for the team in 2018: Richards, J.C. Ramirez, Matt Shoemaker, John Lamb and Nick Tropeano. That group has combined for 32 starts with the club in 2018.

Shohei Ohtani has not been cleared to pitch yet

But it gets worse. While Shohei Ohtani is not currently on the disabled list, he is not being used as a pitcher. Ohtani suffered a UCL injury in early June. He’s allowed to hit, but still hasn’t been cleared to pitch. By fWAR, Ohtani and Richards had been the team’s third and fourth best pitchers this season.

There’s some hope for the Angels

There is some reason for optimism, however. The team’s three current starters have been excellent in 2018. Skaggs has a 2.64 ERA, and is posting the highest strikeout rate of his career. Peña has only made four starts with the team, but carries a 2.75 ERA and an excellent strikeout to walk ratio. Heaney has a 2.84 ERA with sold peripherals.

However, Skaggs and Heaney have lengthy injury histories of their own. Skaggs has never topped 113 innings in the majors over a single season. He’s at 92 innings pitched entering Thursday. Skaggs missed all of 2015 recovering from an injury, and failed to top 100 innings pitched across all levels last season.

Heaney failed to top 50 innings pitched across all innings last season and has a single-season high of 105 2/3 innings in the majors. He’s tossed 96 innings entering Thursday.

The AL West is tough

It also doesn’t help that the American League West has suddenly become baseball’s most competitive division. The defending champs, the Houston Astros, lead the way, but both the Seattle Mariners and Oakland Athletics have surged up the standings ahead of Los Angeles.

The Angels would have faced an uphill battle for a wild card spot even without Richards’ injury. With Richards down, that might be the final nail in the coffin for the Angels in 2018.

Garrett Richards has decided to have Tommy John surgery. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)

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Chris Cwik is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at christophercwik@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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