Lance McCullers threw seven strong innings, Chris Carter and Jose Altuve hit solo home runs and the Houston Astros rolled to a 6-1 win over the Kansas City Royals on Monday night in the opener of a three-game series between the two best teams in the American League.
McCullers (4-2) halted a two-start winless streak, giving up one run on four hits and two walks while striking out six. The rookie right-hander pitched past the sixth inning for the first time in his last four starts.
Luis Valbuena had two hits and two runs scored and Domingo Santana knocked in two for the AL West-leading Astros, who were coming off a four-game split against the New York Yankees to start their seven-game homestand.
The Astros (45-34) lead the AL in wins, but the Royals (44-29) lead the league in winning percentage.
Salvador Perez hit a solo homer for the Royals, who had a four-game winning streak halted.
Joe Blanton (2-1) gave up five runs in 2 2/3 innings to take the loss, which snapped a two-start winning streak since the veteran right-hander joined the rotation.
Blanton issued three consecutive walks in the second inning, the last to Santana with the bases loaded, and Jason Castro added a sacrifice fly to give the Astros a 2-0 lead.
They extended it to 5-0 with a three-run rally in the third, which Altuve started with a blast to left for his seventh homer of the season. Preston Tucker and Santana added RBI singles to knock Blanton out of the game.
Blanton yielded five hits and five walks after giving up just seven hits and no walks over 11 innings in consecutive wins against St. Louis and Milwaukee.
Carter led off the bottom of the fifth with his 14th homer of the season off Brandon Finnegan, who was still in the game after replacing Blanton in the third, but Perez got the run back for Kansas City with a leadoff homer in the seventh, his 13th of the year.
Joe Thatcher and Will Harris pitched the last two innings for Houston ... It was Altuve's seventh homer of the season ... The Astros have hit at least two home runs in 11 of their last 16 games and lead the majors with 33 multi-homer games this season, going 30-3 in those outings ... The Royals were 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position and stranded seven on base.