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Santana wins 4th straight, Angels beat Toronto 7-3

TORONTO — Slowed by injuries at the start of the season, Los Angeles Angels right-hander Ervin Santana is finishing strong.

Backed by home runs from Vladimir Guerrero and Juan Rivera, Santana won his fourth straight start and the Angels beat the Toronto Blue Jays 7-3 on Saturday.

"When he's hitting his spots at 93-94 (mph) with that power breaking ball, that's a terrific combination and that's what you're seeing on a consistent basis," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said.

Guerrero broke a 3-all tie with a solo shot in the sixth inning and Rivera provided some insurance with a two-run drive in the eighth as the AL West leaders avoided their first three-game losing streak since June 20-22. Los Angeles is the only team in the majors that hasn't lost four straight all season.

Toronto has dropped eight of 10 and is nine games below .500, matching a season low.

Santana (7-6) allowed three runs and seven hits in six innings, walked four and struck out three. The right-hander, 5-0 in his last six road starts, said an improved changeup has been a big part of his recent success.

"It's getting better," Santana said. "Last year it was too hard and this year it's getting to where we want to. It's more off-speed, the velocity is different."

A sprained elbow delayed Santana's season debut until May 14 and he lost three of his first four decisions before going back on the disabled list with muscle soreness in his arm. Santana dropped his first two starts after returning July 3 but has won six of seven decisions since.

"I like the consistent arm speed I'm seeing now from start to start," Scioscia said. "The power breaking ball has re-emerged. His ability to locate the fastball with good life on it is really the basis of his stuff."

Run support has also played a big role in Santana's results. The Angels have averaged fewer than two runs per game in his six defeats but have scored six runs or more in six of his seven victories.

Darren Oliver pitched two innings and Kevin Jepsen finished up for the Angels, who have won 23 of their past 31 road games.

Starting for the first time since Aug. 11, Blue Jays rookie right-hander Scott Richmond (6-7) allowed four runs and six hits in seven innings. Richmond walked three and struck out 10, his second double-digit strikeout game. He fanned a career-high 11 at Philadelphia on June 17.

The Angels jumped in front by scoring three runs in the third. Chone Figgins doubled home Erick Aybar, and Maicer Izturis followed with a two-run double.

"That third inning I kind of fell apart a little bit," Richmond said. "I was worried about the hitters and rushing to the plate and falling behind."

Toronto tied it in the bottom half when Adam Lind hit a three-run homer to left, his 25th.

Guerrero opened the sixth with a drive to left, his 11th.

"I saw a lot of breaking balls, a lot of sliders, in and out of the zone," Guerrero said through a translator. "I just had to tell myself, 'I have got to go look for it.' Fortunately I got one that I could hit."

The Angels padded their lead with three in the eighth off reliever Brian Tallet. Rivera followed Guerrero's single with a two-run drive, his 20th, and Gary Matthews Jr. hit an RBI triple.

Figgins made the defensive play of the game in the sixth, sliding into foul territory behind third base to snare a grounder that ticked off the bag, then making a strong throw to first to retire Randy Ruiz.

"That's as good as you're going to see," Scioscia said.

NOTES: The Angels recalled RHP Rafael Rodriguez from Triple-A Salt Lake and demoted RHP Sean O'Sullivan to their top farm club. ... Angels OF Torii Hunter got the day off to rest his sore right groin. ... Toronto 3B Edwin Encarnacion (left knee) missed his second straight game and is day-to-day. ... Angels LHP Joe Saunders (shoulder) will throw a bullpen session Monday and could start Wednesday against Detroit, Scioscia said. Saunders was placed on the 15-day disabled list Aug. 8. ... Los Angeles is 26-8 in day games. ... Richmond made his first home start since June 30, when he lost to Tampa Bay.