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Escobar's gem fuels sweep of Dodgers

Escobar's gem fuels sweep of Dodgers

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ANAHEIM -- Before this weekend's Freeway Series, the Angels talked about bragging rights and the intensity of the crosstown rivalry.

In the other locker room, the Dodgers talked about how they would rather not play these Interleague games and how Interleague Play was more about the fans and not the teams.

Sunday afternoon, the Angels made it clear that they were serious about winning, completing the three-game sweep behind a stellar performance from starting pitcher Kelvim Escobar, defeating the Dodgers, 4-1, in front a third consecutive sellout crowd at Angel Stadium.

"It was great. The fans were getting into it, and we were playing the Dodgers," Escobar said. "It's a good atmosphere, almost like a playoff atmosphere. You get into it, too."

Escobar was clearly into it, pitching eight scoreless innings, allowing three hits while striking out five to earn his fifth win of the season.

"We had a game plan that we worked on before the game," said catcher Jose Molina, who got the start in place of Mike Napoli. "He was using everything and throwing strikes -- that was the key."

For Escobar, the win was extremely gratifying because he wanted to bounce back after getting shelled for eight runs in 2 1/3 innings on Tuesday against the Mariners.

Escobar said he used that bad performance as motivation to will his way past the Dodgers on Sunday afternoon.

"My last game in Seattle, it happens that's one of the things you can't explain about the game," Escobar said. "I was a little upset because I didn't get through three innings. I was ready for this one, and thank God everything worked out. I take it like a challenge."

Defensively, the Angels helped out their determined righty, turning two crucial double plays to get Escobar out of trouble in the first and eighth innings.

In the first frame with runners on first and second with one out, Escobar got Jeff Kent, who hit a homer in Saturday's game, to ground into a 5-4-3 double play to end the inning. Then in the eighth after manager Mike Scioscia came out to see if his starter had any gas left, Escobar got Russell Martin to hit a grounder to second inducing the inning-ending double play.

"It was huge, because when you get in trouble, that's the best play you can have as a pitcher," Escobar said. "As the pitcher, you set the tempo. If you pitch quick, they're going to be on their feet ready to make a play for you."

"You can go back and there were a number of pitches that were big and a number of plays that were big," Scioscia said. "The double play in the first inning really let Kelvim settle down out there. And Kelvim certainly set a tone out there on the mound today."

Offensively, the Angels continued the weekend-series trend of breaking the game open in the middle innings, scoring three runs in the fifth off Dodgers starting pitcher Derek Lowe. Lowe pitched a complete game, allowing four runs (three earned) on nine hits while striking out six.

However, it was the Angels' ability to capitalize on the Dodgers' mistakes that defeated Lowe. The Angels scored a run in the first after third baseman Wilson Betemit booted a ground ball by Gary Mathews Jr., keeping the inning alive. Casey Kotchman followed with single, scoring Vladimir Guerrero, who hit a two-out RBI double to start the rally.

In the fifth with the score 1-0, the Angels got back-to-back hits by Erick Aybar and Molina to start the inning. Aybar, however, tried to score from third on a ground ball to Nomar Garciaparra, but he was tagged out on a collision at the plate that sent catcher Russell Martin head over feet.

Lowe struck out the next batter, Reggie Willits, and the momentum seemed to shift to the Dodgers. The Angels didn't retreat, though, putting together three consecutive singles compounded by an error to score three runs.

"Derek Lowe is tough. He's going to get ground ball after ground ball," Scioscia said. "We put some guys in motion, and I thought we did a good job staying inside the ball. We used the middle of the field, and that's the way you beat Derek."

The Angels completed their first series sweep of the Dodgers at Angel Stadium since June 2005 and improve their record against the Dodgers to 33-26.

Jayson Addcox is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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