HOUSTON -- Angels right-hander Joe Blanton delivered his sixth quality start in his last seven outings Saturday, continuing a welcome recovery that coincides with his brief hiatus from Los Angeles' beleaguered rotation.
The Angels scored four runs in the fourth inning, providing Blanton some rare early run support en route to a 7-2 victory over the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park, their fifth consecutive win.
Blanton (2-10) surrendered just three hits over seven strong innings and the Angels (38-43) provided additional cushion with Howie Kendrick and Chris Iannetta home runs in the fifth and eighth innings.
Mix in the outstanding defense in right field from Josh Hamilton, whose handiwork erased a pair of potential homers, and the Angels mimicked the solid play that helped them claim the series opener on Friday night.
"They were both great catches," Blanton said of the gems Hamilton made in the fourth and seventh innings. "Short field over there, he played the wall great, timed his jumps perfectly, made two outstanding plays.
"It's nice having those guys who are able to go get it. Anytime an outfielder makes a diving play or a catch up against the wall, it's always a huge boost because you know they stole one. Sometimes these are game-changers."
Since his 10-6 setback against the Boston Red Sox on June 9, Blanton has pitched exceptionally, allowing five earned runs over 21 innings and three starts. He retired the first 10 Astros he faced and carried a shutout into the seventh before first baseman Brett Wallace followed a Chris Carter leadoff walk with an opposite-field, two-run home run to left.
Blanton issued just two walks, both to Carter, and struck out six batters.
"His ability to locate the fastball is getting more refined as he's gotten into the season, definitely after that little hiatus we gave him," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said of Blanton. "And I think that sets up his opportunity to command counts, to bring in his changeup and other off-speed pitches into the game. And he's not afraid to challenge guys. He does well when he has his command."
Astros right-hander Jordan Lyles (4-3) endured his second consecutive rough outing following a stretch of seven starts in which he surrendered two earned runs or less. He struggled mightily with his control in the fourth inning, plunking both Kendrick and Peter Bourjos with pitches and issuing a walk to Hamilton that loaded the bases with no outs.
Angels third baseman Alberto Callaspo followed with a two-run single to left. Three batters later, shortstop Erick Aybar added a two-run single to right, recording his 14th multi-hit game of the month in the process.
"He pretty much just lost his fastball command and was not able to get in the zone," Astros manager Bo Porter said of Lyles. "He was right at or close to 40 pitches in that (fourth) inning. At that point, you are not going to send him back out there for another stressful inning, so that's why we went to the bullpen."
The bullpen could not stem the tide, with right-hander Josh Fields surrendering a solo homer to Kendrick, his ninth of the season, with two outs in the fifth and left-hander Travis Blackley allowing a two-run shot to Iannetta, his sixth, with two outs in the eighth.
Perhaps indicative of his frustration, Blackley shoved Angels outfielder J.B. Shuck in the back while completing a 1-3-6-1 caught stealing that closed the eighth. Shuck singled immediately after Iannetta bumped the Angels' lead to 7-2 with his blast off the glass paneling above left field.
"I never try to be malicious to anyone," Blackley said. "It was one of those things where the heat of the moment kind of got me. I don't mean anything by it."
Said Shuck, who played in 37 games with the Astros in 2011: "He must have been mad about the home run he gave up. I don't know."
NOTES: Houston (30-51) has dropped three of four games to open its nine-game home stand. ... Porter called Scioscia and apologized for an incident that occurred Friday night. In the sixth inning Angels catcher Hank Conger pursued a popup in front of the Houston dugout but pulled away at the last second when someone from the Astros' dugout yelled something that led Conger to believe that first baseman Mark Trumbo, also in pursuit, had called for the ball. Conger was initially charged with an error, but that ruling was later overturned.