Angels lose game, possibly Escobar

Angels lose game, possibly Escobar

ANAHEIM -- The Angels came home last week feeling pretty good about themselves and their place atop the American League West.

After sweeping Seattle, they stretched a winning streak to a season-high five games with a win over the Tigers. Whatever giddiness there may have been quickly faded when they dropped the next three games.

With a win over Cleveland on Tuesday, the Angels had an opportunity to end the six-game homestand, if not on a high note then with a little momentum as they get set to embark on a nine-game road trip. But they could not find a way to make two early leads stick and lost, 9-3, to the Indians on Wednesday to close out their most recent homestand with a 2-4 mark

Adding to a less upbeat mood for their flight to Michigan is a pair of physical setbacks to two key players.

Steve Finley left the game after the sixth inning with a tight left groin, but the center fielder does not consider it an injury and said it would not keep him out of the lineup. More critical is the sore right elbow of Kelvim Escobar.

The right-hander gutted out five innings Wednesday, allowing four runs on six hits and two walks to take the loss. Escobar said he first noticed the condition in his elbow during his last start, but was able to pitch into the eighth inning and pick up the win against the Tigers.

Against the Indians, though, Escobar could not pump up the velocity nor the command on his fastball and instead was forced to rely on his split-finger, slider and changeup.

"It is no excuse, but it was no fun when you go out there and you don't feel 100 percent," Escobar said. "You can't be Superman."

The elbow began to bother him Wednesday as he warmed up in the bullpen and through the first inning, but it loosened up enough for him to get through five. One curious side note to Escobar's line was his nine strikeouts, including the side in the first.

Escobar relies on his fastball and spots his other pitches to keep hitters off-balance. Normally able to work in the low to mid-90s, Escobar said he could gun his fastball consistently only into the 88-89 mph range.

"I don't even know how I punched out nine guys," Escobar said, adding that he went to his changeup more often than normal.

Escobar doesn't believe there is any ligament damage and said it feels different than the pain that sent him to the disabled list to start the season. But he said it does feel like bone chips, a condition with which he's familiar.

After pitching half the 1996 season in the Toronto organization with bone chips in his right elbow, Escobar had surgery to remove them and ended up with the Blue Jays later in 1997. But as the closer for Toronto in 2002, Escobar said he began to suffer from bone chips again and believes he's been pitching with them ever since.

Escobar is hoping this setback does not mean another stint on the DL or more surgery, but he will accept whatever the club decides is the best route to take.

"The last thing I want to do is get surgery and miss six weeks," Escobar said. "But I'm willing to do what it takes to pitch like I am able."

Manager Mike Scioscia said the club will make a decision on what is best for Escobar in the long term.

"If we have to push him back or shut him down for a while, we'll do that," Scioscia said. But he declined to elaborate what further options they might explore, whether that is to move Kevin Gregg back into the rotation or call up another pitcher from the Minors.

Prior to Escobar's exit Wednesday, the Angels appeared to have a line on breaking through their offensive slump.

Finley scored in the first inning on an RBI single to center by Garret Anderson. Then after the Indians tied the score in the top of the second, Jose Molina hit his second home run of the year in the bottom half of the inning, a two-run shot to left off Cleveland starter Cliff Lee.

But the Indians left-hander controlled the tempo for most of his six innings Wednesday and the Angels did not plate another run as he picked up his fourth win of the year.

"Lee settled in and started throwing good quality strikes," Finley said, who felt his groin get tight when he rounded first on second-inning double. "We didn't make any mistakes, they just beat us."

Finley said it continued to cramp over the next few innings before he decided to finally take himself out.

"I was just trying to be smart," Finley said.

Ben Broussard went 3-for-5 with a double, homer and three runs scored while Coco Crisp went 3-for-4 with a double and an RBI for the Indians.

Mike Scarr is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.