Reporting from St. Louis —
Scott Kazmir was perfectly awful for most of his last three starts.
He was nearly perfect for most of Saturday's.
The left-hander retired 17 consecutive batters at one point over seven innings to bounce back from a string of subpar starts during the Angels' 10-7 victory over St. Louis at Busch Stadium.
Kazmir came into the game having lost three consecutive outings and confidence in almost every aspect of his pitching — the dipping velocity, out-of-whack arm slot and ineffective slider.
All were back in working order against the Cardinals. Kazmir (3-4) featured improved fastball command and more action on his slider, giving up only three hits and three runs in matching his longest start of the season.
"That's the way he can pitch," Angels Manager Mike Scioscia said. "He has the potential to do that every time out, we just hope he keeps it going."
The Angels' recently retooled batting order rapped out 13 hits, with four coming during a five-run third inning against St. Louis starter Kyle Lohse (1-4). After becoming the last team in the major leagues to score five runs in an inning, on Tuesday, they have now done it twice in five days.
The Angels have averaged six runs per game and won six of nine games since Scioscia inserted Howie Kendrick into the No. 2 hole and moved Bobby Abreu, Torii Hunter and Kendry Morales each down one spot in the lineup.
All four batters reached base during the Angels' big third inning that was highlighted by Hunter's two-run single to left field, Morales' run-scoring double over center fielder Colby Rasmus' head and Hideki Matsui's two-run single that nicked off second baseman Felipe Lopez's glove into right field.
Mike Napoli added a two-run homer in the fifth, and Kevin Frandsen and Morales each finished with two doubles.
"The lineup shuffle could have something to do with it," Hunter said of the Angels' offensive resurgence, "but I can't say that's it 100%. It's definitely a high percentage. Guys are starting to feel a little more comfortable."
The same could be said for Kazmir, who gave up only one hit over the first six innings. Matt Holliday led off the second with a homer off a changeup that Kazmir left over the middle of the plate.
"I just did him a favor," Kazmir said.
When David Freese and Rasmus followed with back-to-back walks, it seemed as if Kazmir was on the brink of reverting to the form that had led to a 7.71 earned-run average over his previous three starts.
But Kazmir got Jason LaRue to fly out and Brendan Ryan to hit a sacrifice fly before striking out Lopez to end the inning.
No Cardinal reached base again until Rasmus drew a two-out walk in the seventh and scored when LaRue hit a bloop single that Abreu overran in right field for an error.
"The difference from the past couple of starts was being able to pitch inside to a righty," Kazmir said. "I didn't have the depth I wanted in my slider, but it was definitely coming in to a righty, so it made that changeup a little bit more effective."
St. Louis added four runs against reliever Bobby Cassevah, pulling to within 10-7 when Lopez's ninth-inning single to right field rolled past Reggie Willits and allowed two base runners to score.
But Fernando Rodney recorded the final two outs, retiring Joe Mather and Jon Jay in the spots previously occupied by the more feared Ryan Ludwick and Albert Pujols before St. Louis Manager Tony La Russa removed them in the wake of the Angels' big lead.
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