Richards struck out eight and made just one mistake over seven innings Friday as the Quakes beat the San Jose Giants, 4-2, to tie the best-of-5 California League Championship Series at 1-1.
After struggling a bit with his control in his first postseason start, the 22-year-old right-hander issued just one walk and gave up two hits in matching his longest outing in the Cal League.
"I didn't feel as comfortable on the mound as I did tonight," Richards said of his outing against Lake Elsinore on Sept. 11. "I was off on the mound, we were off as a team."
Staked to a 1-0 lead in the second, the 2009 first-round pick gave up a solo homer to Johnny Monell in the bottom of the inning. Charlie Culberson reached on an error but was promptly thrown out trying to steal by catcher Alberto Rosario.
"Rosie is as close to a [Major League] catcher as you can get," Richards said. "He helps us all out. He's played great all year, he's a rock behind the plate."
Richards allowed only two more runners to get to second base, both on wild pitches. The eight strikeouts matched his Cal League high.
"The changeup was great for me today," he said. "The fastball was there, my slider was good. I didn't have my curveball, but I had the other three pitches and I used those to try to keep those guys off-balance."
After sitting out Thursday's series opener, Jon Townsend put Rancho Cucamonga back on top in the fourth with his first postseason homer. Dillon Baird and Luis Jimenez delivered RBI singles in the sixth and seventh, respectively, to make it 4-1.
Jose Perez relieved Richards and pitched a perfect eighth before Monell homered again in the ninth off Eddie McKiernan.
Giants starter Kelvin Marte (0-1) took the loss, despite giving up two runs on three hits over five innings. Hector Correa was charged with two runs on four hits in 1 2/3 frames.
"K.J. (manager Keith Johnson) has been preaching all the time, 'Get it back to our place and take care of business," Richards said. "We got a 'W' and we're taking it back to our place."