Jays batter K-Rod in ninth but can't complete comeback

Angels 4, Blue Jays 3

TORONTO (AP) -- Kelvim Escobar helped the Los Angeles Angels avoid another empty trip to Toronto.

Escobar shut down his former team, Gary Matthews Jr. homered and Los Angeles held on to beat the Blue Jays 4-3 Thursday night, just the second win for the Angles in their past 16 games at Rogers Centre.

"We didn't want to get swept," Escobar said. "It was a very important game for us. Seattle is right behind us and we've got to win as many games as possible."

The idle Mariners fell 3 1/2 games behind the Angels in the AL West.

Escobar (13-6) allowed one run and five hits over seven innings, walked none and struck out nine. He won back-to-back starts for the first time since mid-June and lowered his ERA to 2.68, the second-best mark in the AL. Oakland right-hander Dan Haren has a 2.54 ERA.

"I had great stuff tonight," Escobar said. "I haven't felt like that in a long time. My breaking ball, my two-seamer, my change-up -- everything was working pretty good."

Signed by Toronto in 1992, Escobar spent parts of seven seasons with the Blue Jays before signing a free-agent contract with the Angels following the 2003 season.

"He did tonight what he's been doing all year," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "He was ahead in most counts, changed speeds well, had good command and pitched a strong ball game."

The Angels scored just four runs as Escobar suffered three straight losses in late July and early August. But they've scored 14 runs in his past two outings.

"He's been one of our horses," Matthews said.

Reed Johnson led off the first with a single, but was thrown out by Matthews when he tried to go from first to third on a single by Lyle Overbay.

Escobar responded by retiring the next 15 batters, a streak that ended with Ray Olmedo's double in the sixth. Johnson followed with an RBI single.

"That killed the rally right away," Escobar said of Matthews' throw. "They could have had a big inning there and that play killed the rally."

After Scot Shields worked the eighth, Toronto made one last rally in the ninth.

Vernon Wells hit a one-out triple to right off Francisco Rodriguez and scored on a single by Frank Thomas. After Troy Glaus walked and Aaron Hill flied out, Gregg Zaun squirted a single through the right side of the infield to score Hector Luna, who was pinch running for Thomas.

Rodriguez then got Matt Stairs to fly out to center for his 30th save in 33 opportunities.

"No one is going to be locked in 100 percent of the time, but Frankie gets it done," Scioscia said. "It's not always going to be clean with any closer, but he gets it done."

Toronto's Dustin McGowan allowed four runs -- three earned -- and four hits over six-plus innings. McGowan (8-7) walked three and matched a career high with seven strikeouts, but lost back-to-back starts for the first time since May 18 and 23.

Matthews gave the Angels a 1-0 lead in the second when he hit a mammoth homer off the facing of the center field restaurant.

"That ball was killed," Scioscia said. "That's one of the longest home runs I've ever seen."

Escobar was just as impressed. "That was a bomb," he said.

Matthews said McGowan's 96 mph fastball helped propel his highlight homer.

"He throws hard," Matthews said. "If you put a good swing on it when he's throwing that hard, it'll go a little bit."

The homer was the first extra-base hit of the series for the Angels, and their first since an eighth-inning homer by Jeff Mathis in Sunday's 6-2 victory over Minnesota.

The Angels added another run in the third when Mathis walked and scored on a double by Chone Figgins.

Sloppy defense by Toronto allowed the Angels to add two more runs in the seventh. After a leadoff walk to Matthews, Casey Kotchman grounded a ball under Overbay's glove, sending Matthews to third. Alex Rios' relay throw bounced off Overbay's glove and rolled across the infield, allowing Matthews to score.

Maicer Izturis followed by chopping a double over Overbay's head, scoring Kotchman.

Game notes
Escobar has worked at least six innings in each of his past eight starts. ... Three of the Angels' four hits were for extra bases. ... Angels right-hander John Lackey left Toronto on Thursday to fly to Boston, where he'll start Game 1 of a doubleheader Friday. Right-hander Ervin Santana will be called up from Triple-A Salt Lake between games to start the second game. ... The Blue Jays extended their run of consecutive games with a double to 23, the longest active streak in the AL.