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AP - Sports

Since returning to the starting rotation, Garrett Richards has resembled the pitcher manager Mike Scioscia believed threw the best of anyone on the Los Angeles Angels in spring training.

Dallas Keuchel is hoping for the same long-term effect from his bullpen stint for the Houston Astros.

Los Angeles looks to avoid a sixth consecutive home loss while preventing Houston from winning its fourth game in five tries Saturday night.

Richards (3-5, 4.04 ERA) began the season in the bullpen and has made 30 relief appearances, though he's also been called upon to help plug gaps in the rotation caused by injury and inconsistency with other starters.

He went 1-2 with a 5.54 ERA in four starts from April 13-30 but has been much better in his starting role this time since taking the spot of Joe Blanton, who is 2-13 and struggled again in relief in Friday's series opener.

Richards has gone 1-1 with a 2.42 ERA in four outings since July 27. He gave up two runs in his first career complete game, though he was saddled with a 2-1 defeat at Yankee Stadium on Monday.

"I think in the bullpen, it helped him to get his power stuff in order," Scioscia said. "Now back in the rotation, he's getting length and depth. You're seeing his ability to command counts improve, and he's having a lot of success."

The right-hander gave up four runs in 6 1-3 innings before the Angels rallied for a 5-4 win over Houston on April 13, and he's also faced them three other times in relief following that outing.

Los Angeles (54-67), though, has dropped 15 of 21 after falling 8-2 to the Astros on Friday. Hank Conger had two hits, but Blanton gave up four runs in the ninth - including homers on consecutive pitches - in the loss.

"The few chances we had, we just couldn't get a hit to get us right back into it," Scioscia said.

Chris Carter hit a three-run homer off Blanton in the ninth for a career-best five RBIs, and Matt Dominguez followed with a solo shot for Houston (40-81), which improved to 8-6 against the Angels.

''I don't know why we do so good against them, but we're playing hard and having fun,'' Carter said. "It's nice to have a game like that and get going again.''

The Astros look to make it six straight wins in Anaheim on Saturday with help from Keuchel (5-7, 4.97), who made two appearances out of the bullpen before returning to the rotation Sunday

The left-hander went 8 2-3 innings and struck out eight, but he gave up six runs - five earned and four alone with two outs in the ninth before being replaced - in a 6-1 loss to Texas.

An Astros error in the final inning was their second of the game.

"I told him, 'You pitched one heck of a game, hold your head high, you don't have anything to hang your head about,''' manager Bo Porter said. "Defensively, we let him down.''

Keuchel had a solid start against the Angels on May 31, when he gave up two runs in seven innings of a 6-3 victory. He'll try to keep Mike Trout off base, which is something no team has been able to do for the last 38 games.

Trout, whose streak is the second-longest in franchise history, has hit safely in 12 of 14 meetings with Houston this season.

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