Escobar grabs career-high 15th victory in win over Jays

" Hero: Escobar, who retired the first 12 batters he faced, improved to 4-3 with a 1.84 ERA against his former team.

" Unsung hero: Garret Anderson hit a solo shot in the second and scored an insurance run on Gregg Zaun's throwing error in the seventh.

" Figure this: The Angels have hit 26 home runs in their last 27 games after getting just four in their previous 22 contests, including a 14-game homerless drought.

" Quotable: "Kelvim was lights-out today with eight strong innings, and probably had enough to pitch the ninth if circumstances were a little bit different. It's good to see that he held his stuff that deep into the game." -- Angels manager Mike Scioscia

-- ESPN.com news services

Angels 3, Blue Jays 1

ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) -- The Blue Jays didn't have enough
bargaining power to keep Kelvim Escobar in Toronto when he became a
free agent after the 2003 season. The Los Angeles Angels did, and
they've been reaping the benefits ever since.

Escobar recorded his career-high 15th victory, Garret Anderson
homered and the Angels beat the Blue Jays 3-1 on Sunday to earn a
split of the four-game series.

"He's found a home out here and he's taking advantage of it,"
Toronto manager John Gibbons said. "One of the reasons they're at
the top of the standings every year and have arguably one of the
best pitching staffs in baseball is because of guys like him."

Escobar is 40-34 with a 3.43 ERA in four seasons with the Halos,
and could have had a much better record if not for some horrible
run support. The Angels are vying for their third division title
since obtaining him.

"He's definitely one of the top pitchers in the game," Gibbons
said. "He's got the big arm, to begin with. I mean, he can throw
anything at any time. He's got such confidence in his split and his
breaking ball, and he's got that plus fastball."

Escobar (15-6) was 14-11 with Toronto in 1999, his first full
season in the majors. In his only season as a full-time closer, he
saved 38 games in 2002 before returning to the rotation the
following year -- which turned out to be his last with the Blue

"The front office knows how much I wanted to stay in Toronto. I
didn't want to leave there," said Escobar, who is 4-3 with a tidy
1.84 ERA against his former team. "I loved the city so much and I
had a lot of friends there. All I asked for was what I deserved at
that point, but we were too far apart.

"They only were offering me two years and I felt like I could
get three years in free agency," he added. "It's a business, and
sometimes you've got to move on. It seems like I made the right
move, and I'm happy to be here. It's such a good team, good front
office, good fans -- the whole package."

Escobar won his fourth straight start, allowing a run and five
hits over eight innings with five strikeouts and no walks. The
right-hander was lifted after 109 pitches, and Francisco Rodriguez
pitched a perfect ninth for his 33rd save in 37 chances.

"Kelvim was lights-out today with eight strong innings, and
probably had enough to pitch the ninth if circumstances were a
little bit different," manager Mike Scioscia said. "It's good to
see that he held his stuff that deep into the game."

Dustin McGowan (8-8) allowed three runs and six hits in seven
innings, striking out six and walking none. The loss was the
right-hander's second to Escobar in a span of 11 days.

Escobar retired his first 12 batters before Vernon Wells led off
the fifth with a broken-bat single and stole second. Center fielder
Gary Matthews Jr., trying to position himself for a throw to third
with Wells tagging up on a routine fly ball, dropped it for his
fifth error of the season and Troy Glaus followed with a sacrifice

Anderson opened the scoring in the fourth with his ninth homer,
then doubled in the fourth and scored the Angels' second run on a
single by Maicer Izturis. Los Angeles added a run in the seventh
when Matthews singled, advanced on a wild pitch, stole third and
continued home on catcher Gregg Zaun's throwing error.

The Angels and Seattle begin the first of two critical series
against each other Monday night at Seattle with first place at
stake in the AL West. John Lackey will oppose Miguel Batista in
Game 1, Ervin Santana squares off against Jeff Weaver on Tuesday
night and the Angels' Jered Weaver hooks up with Felix Hernandez on
Wednesday afternoon.

"I feel like people are sort of overhyping it," Matthews said.
"I mean, we play them again here in September, so you guys can
hype it up then. It's just another series. We're still going to
continue to play the game that we play and do our thing."

The Angels lead the Mariners 8-4 in the season series, including
two wins each by Lackey -- who hasn't allowed a run in 15 innings
against them this season. Los Angeles has been alone in first place
since May 9. Their 3-2 win over Cleveland that night ended a 1-5
skid and began a 32-11 stretch that put them a season-high eight
games ahead of the pack.

"This next series isn't going to make or break either team,"
Scioscia said. "Obviously, for us to get through our division,
you're going to have to beat Seattle. But it not going to change
the way we have to approach or go about our business."

Game notes
Angels RF Reggie Willits ended the third inning with a
sliding catch against John McDonald and dug up a huge divot that
required immediate attention from a member of the grounds crew. ...
The Blue Jays won four of their seven meetings with the Angels,
capturing the season series for the fifth consecutive year (25-13).
... Matt Stairs pinch-hit for McDonald in the seventh and grounded
out, making him 2-for-20 lifetime against Escobar.