ANAHEIM -- The Rangers will be looking for Prince Fielder to break out of his slow start when he goes up against Angels right-hander Garrett Richards on Saturday at Angel Stadium.
Richards will be a formidable opponent for Fielder, taking a 2-0 record and a 2.53 ERA into the game. Left-hander Matt Harrison pitches for the Rangers in Game 2 of the three-game series between the two A.L. West rivals.
Fielder went into the series hitting .206 with two home runs, nine RBI and a .314 slugging percentage through the first month of the season. He began May by going 1-for-4 on Friday night.
"Just have to stay positive, try to get a good pitch to hit and hit it hard," said Fielder, who has had trouble elevating and driving the ball against shifts with three infielders on the right side.
"He just needs to stay himself," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "If he was himself, he'd beat this shift. Like David Ortiz, he'd be driving the ball over it or around it. Since he's not himself, he has been hitting the ball on the ground. If Prince was swinging the bat the way he's capable of swinging, he'd be smacking balls to left, he'd be smacking balls over those guys' heads … he's just not there yet.
"I just don't see Prince the way we're used to seeing him. I just see a timing issue: sometimes too early and sometimes too late. He just hasn't found that timing. I just want him to handle this as a slump and not take the mindset that he's letting people down. It's going to start soon. He's not a .200 hitter. He's a power hitter that can hit."
Richards would be a tough test for any hitter right now. He earned a spot in the Angels rotation by going 7-4 with a 3.38 ERA in 18 starts after moving out of the bullpen in July last season and has carried it over to this season. He won his first two starts and has a 3.60 ERA in his last three despite not being involved in the decision. He is 2-1 with a 4.60 ERA in six career starts and four relief appearances against the Rangers.
"He's very confident right now, and when you're confident like that, you want to ride it out as long as you can, really," Angels pitching coach Mike Butcher said. "But he's started to believe in himself. He was believing in himself going back to last year, really. The second half of the season where he started to harness the things that he was learning during games and bringing them into the next game. The good things.
"Not sweating the small stuff all the time -- the little bleeder that falls in there, the ground ball that squeaks through the infield. He was able to let those things go and he's really matured that part of it this year. When you have the kind of stuff that he has, you're going to get in on some guys and they're going to fight it off, they're going to get it through the infield every once in a while. But he's handling things a lot better this year, in a mature way, a lot better."
Rangers: Harrison works on off-speed pitches
Matt Harrison allowed two runs on three hits and two walks in last Sunday's start against the Mariners. It was his first game in 13 months after going through back problems in 2013 and the outing represented a good start for him.
But he still wants to do better and he did some work on the side this week focusing on his offspeed pitches.
"Especially when I have a hitter in the hole, I need to make a good pitch and not something they can sit on," Harrison said. "Make a competitive pitch."
Still the first outing was a positive step after a long comeback and he makes his second start on Saturday against the Angels. He is 3-5 with a 5.10 ERA in eight starts and five relief appearances against the Angels in his career.
"It's something I can build on and use it as a confidence boost," Harrison said. "I just need to keep attacking hitters, pounding the strike zone and make my pitches when I have to."
Angels: starting pitching leads to strong start
The Angels, after losing the opener to the Mariners on March 31, were 14-12 during April after going 17-32 for the month in each of the past two seasons. Manager Mike Scioscia gave credit to his starting pitchers for the improvement over the first month of the season.
Angels starters were 10-7 with a 3.43 ERA in 26 April games. They averaged 6.2 innings per start, held opponents to a .212 batting average and struck out 7.7 batters per nine innings.
"Something that has flown a little under the radar is our starting pitching," Scioscia said. "There's been a lot of focus on what's happening on the offensive side and our troubles in the bullpen in trying to get their feet on the ground. But our starting pitching has been terrific, if you look at the amount of innings they've given us, how deep they're pitching in games, how many games they've given us a chance to win.
"I would focus on that factor, plus our ability to drive the ball. We're driving the ball very well and giving ourselves a good chance to score runs in clumps. We're keeping our heads above water. Hopefully as the season progresses, we're going to become a better team."
• Rangers catcher Robinson Chirinos was scratched from Friday's game with a stomach virus and was replaced by J.P. Arencibia. His status for Saturday is uncertain.
• Angels outfielder Josh Hamilton missed playing against his former team because he is on the disabled list with a torn ligament in his left thumb. But the two teams don't play again until June 20-22 and Hamilton is planning to be back by then. He took 95 swings with his right hand off a tee on Friday and could be a couple weeks away from going on a rehab assignment.
• Grant Green could get his first start in left field on Saturday for the Angels. He's a right-handed hitter who was called up on Friday.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.