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Angels beat Astros, 7-2, behind Joe Blanton and Josh Hamilton

Blanton gives up two runs and three hits over seven innings and Hamilton makes two outstanding catches in right field. Peter Bourjos is hit on a wrist by a pitch and has to leave game.

June 29, 2013|By Mike DiGiovanna

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— For one afternoon in a horrific season, baseball was fun again for Josh Hamilton, the Angels right fielder who saved at least three runs with two leaping catches at the wall in Saturday's 7-2 victory over the Houston Astros in Minute Maid Park.

Peter Bourjos wishes he could say the same.

While Hamilton scaled walls, and Joe Blanton delivered his third straight quality start, and Erick Aybar and Alberto Callaspo hit two-run singles in a four-run fourth inning, and Howie Kendrick and Chris Iannetta each homered to help the Angels win their fifth straight game, Bourjos got hurt … again.

The speedy center fielder, who is batting .326 with a .385 on-base percentage in 40 games, returned to the lineup Saturday for the first time since suffering a bruised left thumb sliding into second base against Pittsburgh on June 23.

But after getting smoked on the right wrist by a Jordan Lyles fastball in the fourth inning, Bourjos, who sat out 40 games in May and June because of a left hamstring strain, headed to a hospital for X-rays, the results of which weren't available after the game.

"It's pretty frustrating," Bourjos said. "I got through the hamstring, I was swinging the bat well, then I jammed my thumb, which set me back a little bit, and now this. It's one thing after another. I'm not sure how bad it is, but it's sore."

Bourjos' injury put a damper on an otherwise gratifying day for the Angels, who combined strong pitching, timely hitting, some power and superb defense to move within one win of their first 6-0 trip since 2002.

Blanton, who was skipped in the rotation after a shoddy start in Boston on June 9, gave up two runs and three hits in seven innings, striking out six and walking two, to improve to 2-10 and earn his first win since May 23.

The right-hander has given up five earned runs in 21 innings of his last three starts and finished June with 40 strikeouts, the most he has had in any month in his career.

"Joe takes a lot of pride in what he needs to bring to our rotation, but I don't think he was pitching with his back against the wall or thinking he had one more start," Manager Mike Scioscia said. "He understands his need to pitch better, and after the first month, he's gradually improved his command and results."

As a fly-ball pitcher who pitches to contact, Blanton appreciated the support of Hamilton, who hauled in a J.D. Martinez drive at the wall with two on to end the fourth inning and jumped high above the wall to rob Matt Dominguez of a solo home run in the seventh.

Hamilton said the Martinez ball would have hit the top of the fence had he not caught it. Whether it would have left the park, or not, the catch saved two runs.

"He played the wall great, timed his jumps perfectly and made two outstanding plays," Blanton said. "It's nice having those guys who can go get it. Any time an outfielder makes a diving play or a catch up against the wall, it's a huge boost because you know they stole one. Sometimes those are game-changers."

Hamilton has been a huge disappointment since signing a five-year, $125-million contract, hitting .221 with 10 homers, 28 runs batted in and 81 strikeouts, but he found a different way to contribute Saturday.

"Those are fun — I miss doing that," Hamilton said of his catches. "Those are more fun than hitting home runs. If you don't do it at the plate, you want to do it in the field."

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