Vlad homers, drives in four runs

ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) -- Paul Byrd's comeback from Tommy John surgery is complete.

Byrd pitched his first complete game since his elbow operation two years ago and Vladimir Guerrero homered and drove in four runs to lead the Los Angeles Angels over the Texas Rangers 5-1 on Monday night.

One of the first people Byrd thought about after the game was Dr. James Andrews, who performed the procedure that prolonged the right-hander's career.

"You have a lot of pain when you first come back," Byrd said. "You don't come back and have your elbow feel great right off the bat. I found myself praying a lot and just thinking, 'Is this it? And if it is it, give me the strength to go through it.'

"So it was a gut check for me and my family, and I hope I've passed the test. I love playing baseball and I want to do it much longer," he said.

Byrd (7-5) threw only 92 pitches and won for the sixth time in eight decisions. He allowed six hits, struck out four and retired 19 of his last 21 batters after being pushed back a day in the rotation because of tightness in his triceps.

"I had a little pain in my triceps the last couple of starts, but our trainer did a really good job getting me out there," Byrd said. "I think it was really important for me -- and the timing is nice because it's a big series for us, and it builds my confidence that I can go late into games."

Byrd, who led the AL with seven complete games three seasons ago with Kansas City, went the distance for the 12th time in 141 career starts and the first time since Sept. 12, 2002, when he beat the Tigers 4-1 at Detroit with a four-hitter.

Angels manager Mike Scioscia is glad general manager Bill Stoneman took a chance on Byrd despite his medical history and signed him to a $5 million, one-year contract as a free agent in December.

"Paul's stuff at the end of last year, from the reports we had, was not only comparable but a little better than we saw when he was in Kansas City," Scioscia said. "That was enough for Bill and it was enough for me to feel that he had a chance to really help us. He just pitched a masterful game tonight."

Byrd, who missed the 2003 season with Atlanta because of his elbow injury and rehabilitation, surpassed the 1,000-inning mark by fanning Hank Blalock for the next-to-last out. This was the seventh time in Byrd's 14 starts that he has pitched at least six innings and not allowed a walk.

He never went to a three-ball count and threw more than 10 pitches in an inning only once. His control made it impossible for Texas' hitters to use a patient approach.

"You never want to start off 0-1, 0-2, and because of that, we were swinging early in the count," major-league home run leader Mark Teixeira said. "He was mixing up his pitches, hitting the corners and throwing strikes all night. We weren't getting enough hits off him to sustain long innings, and he did everything he had to do."

The Angels began a 10-game stretch in which they will play the Rangers seven times. After that, they won't meet again until Sept. 20. The defending AL West champions lead the division by 2½ games and have beaten the Rangers in 11 of their last 16 meetings.

Rookie Chris Young (6-4) allowed five runs and 10 hits in five innings and struck out six. The right-hander, who retired 20 of the last 21 batters he faced in his previous start last Monday against Atlanta, has given up 12 earned runs and 24 hits over 12 1/3 innings in his three starts against the Angels this season -- after beating them twice last September in his first two starts against them.

The Angels grabbed a 2-0 lead in the first when Darin Erstad
singled to extend his hitting streak to 20 games and Guerrero drove the next pitch into the left-field bullpen for his 11th homer. Guerrero has hit safely in his last 25 games against the Rangers, the longest active streak by any player against one team.

Texas got one run back when David Dellucci drove a first-pitch fastball to center field with two outs in the third for his 11th homer and the 110th by the Rangers, who lead the majors. Dellucci had three hits.

The Angels responded in the bottom half with Guerrero's sacrifice fly and then added two more in the fifth on Guerrero's RBI double and a run-scoring single by Bengie Molina. Guerrero, the reigning AL MVP, is 18-for-41 with four homers and 12 RBI since coming off the disabled list June 10.

"You know what? If he didn't make $60 million, I'd probably get him something really nice," Byrd joked.

Game notes
Erstad is the ninth player in Angels history with a hitting streak of 20 or more games. Garret Anderson hit in a club-record 28 straight in 1998. ... Maicer Izturis made his first start at short for the Angels, after Orlando Cabrera was scratched because of a tender right elbow. Cabrera was the only player to appear in each of the Angels' first 68 games. ... Anderson started in left field for the first time since June 11 after hamstring trouble relegated him to DH duty in the previous six games.