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Resilient Escobar takes down Dodgers

Escobar takes down Dodgers

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LOS ANGELES -- The first heater that left Kelvim Escobar's hand perfectly painted the inside corner of the plate, leaving leadoff hitter Rafael Furcal frozen with indecision. No swing. Strike one called. The second pitch dipped just below and outside of the strike zone's center. No swing. Strike two called.

Two pitches thrown, two strikes. Not a bad start for the Angels defense.

Until, of course, Furcal decided to swing. Pitch number three, a screamer down the center of the plate -- good for a strike in any league, in front of any umpire -- proved far too inviting. Three pitches in, Escobar watched helplessly as the ball exploded off Furcal's bat, landing in the bleachers in right-center field.

Three pitches, one swing, a one-run advantage. Not a bad start for the Dodgers offense.

But the leadoff blast, Furcal's 19th career leadoff jack and first round-tripper in 297 at-bats, was but a minor hiccup for the Angels -- one easily cured by a hemorrhage-inducing offense that battered the Dodgers into submission. The Halos racked up four runs in the third and three in the seventh en route to a lopsided 10-4 win over their National League rivals in front of a sellout crowd of 56,000 at Dodger Stadium on Sunday.

The Angels now hold a 5-1 advantage in the six games played this year during the Freeway Series.

Anything but flustered after Furcal's blast, Escobar threw three straight scoreless innings before surrendering a run in the fifth and another in the seventh. Through seven innings, Escobar allowed eight hits while fanning eight batters and picking up his eighth win.

"It was the first hitter," Escobar said. "You still got 27 outs, so you got to keep on going. ... It doesn't matter if we fall behind right away. We know that we can always come back."

The comeback started in the top of the third, courtesy of a Chone Figgins single to second. Orlando Cabrera followed with a single to left field before Vladimir Guerrero sent Figgins home with a line-drive single to left-center, tying the game at 1. Robb Quinlan plated Cabrera with a single to right and Guerrero scored on a double by Howie Kendrick through the hole at shortstop to push the Halos lead to 3-1. Mike Napoli tacked on another run for good measure with a sacrifice fly.

The offensive outburst gave the Halos a lead they would not relinquish, while allowing Escobar the room needed to employ every pitch in his catalog of splitters, curves and sliders.

"At times, he'd bend, but didn't break," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "He had some great stuff against a good lineup, and he gave us a chance to end our game by holding them down after we got down 1-0. We were able to put four runs up to give Kelvim a little bit of space to work in."

Leading, 5-2, in the seventh, the Angels scored three more insurance runs on the strength of a two-run single by Figgins and a single by Kendrick to extend the lead to 8-2 and effectively bolt the door on any hopes for a Dodgers rally. Kendrick and Cabrera led the Halos with three hits each while combining for three RBIs.

"We played our game," Scioscia said. "We pressured them enough that we had a lot of opportunities. That's our game. We're not going to drive the ball out of the park and just outslug a lot of teams. We have to combine the situational hitting with the baserunning and the team concept approach offensively. When we can get into that, we can score runs."

Gary Matthews Jr. recorded his first inside-the-park home run -- 25th in club history -- in the eighth after Dodgers rookie James Loney crashed into the right-field wall in a courageous attempt to remedy his team's already insurmountable deficit. Loney lay motionless for several minutes as team doctors attempted to determine the severity of his injuries. He would leave the game with what was determined to be a bruised right knee.

"That was scary," Scioscia said. "The kid's playing hard, going after a ball and obviously, your first thought is a head injury or a neck injury. It's very, very scary. It's tough. A knee [injury] is never good, but considering what could've happened, hopefully it'll be the lesser of two evils."

The Halos will begin a nine-game homestand on Monday. They will conclude Interleague Play in a pair of three-game series against Houston and Pittsburgh, before facing off against Kansas City, their first American League opponent since June 6 against Minnesota.

Larry Santana 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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