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Escobar's miscues lead to early exit

Escobar struggles early in loss

ANAHEIM -- It was a memorable day for several Angels pitchers, but Kelvim Escobar was not one of them.

Before Chris Bootcheck struck out the side in the sixth and newcomers Rich Thompson and Jason Bulger made impressive debuts, an unusually ineffective Escobar didn't last long in front of 38,342 at Angel Stadium.

On a smoldering afternoon fit for Texans, the Rangers made themselves right at home, knocking out the Cy Young Award candidate Escobar in the third inning on their way to a 7-6 win that snapped the Angels' five-game winning streak.

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Seattle's eighth straight loss, to the Blue Jays in Toronto, kept the Angels' lead at 6 1/2 games in the American League West.

The Angels didn't go quietly. Garret Anderson launched a three-run homer in the ninth against southpaw C.J. Wilson, making it a one-run game. But Wilson retired Maicer Izturis and Kendry Morales to nail it down for the Rangers.

Anderson, who also had a sac fly in the fifth, has 21 RBIs in his past 11 games and is batting .324 against lefties. The Angels needed 10 innings to subdue the Rangers on Friday night, and Angels manager Mike Scioscia said they were fortunate to escape with that win.

"I think we've been playing at a high level for a long time," Scioscia said. "The last two games we haven't gotten into our game the way we can.

"Too many things slipped through the cracks at the offensive and defensive end. We didn't do some of the things we needed. I don't know if some guys were tired. We've been on a long run, and it was hot. I'm not going to get into specifics -- overall, we were flat in some areas."

Escobar, coming off four consecutive wins and boasting the second-best ERA in the American League, lasted only 2 2/3 innings in the 99-degree heat, giving up five earned runs on six hits and four walks, striking out six hitters. His record slipped to 15-7 as his ERA rose to 2.99 from 2.77.

"Escobar is a great pitcher having a great year," Rangers shortstop Michael Young said. "We just did a good job of seeing pitches and took some walks. The guy is still having an incredible year. You never know. His next start he might go out and throw eight shutout innings."

David Murphy and Brad Wilkerson each stroked two-run doubles that hurt Escobar, and Marlon Byrd had a double and single, scoring twice, before homering against Dustin Moseley in the fourth inning.

Escobar's control -- three walks in his previous 21 innings -- had been razor sharp coming into the game.

"It was one of those days," Escobar said. "I couldn't get the ball down in the strike zone, and when I got ahead, I couldn't finish them off. They had some good at-bats. They took some good pitches and fouled off some good pitches. It wasn't like I was missing all over the place. You have to give them a lot of credit. They got me."

In his season debut, right-hander Edinson Volquez went the required five innings for the victory, yielding three earned runs on seven hits and two walks.

Howie Kendrick was Volquez's main nemesis, driving in runs with a second-inning single and a fourth-inning double. He added another single in the eighth, hiking his average to .322.

Vladimir Guerrero and Maicer Izturis had two hits each for the Angels, who left runners in scoring position for four straight innings before Jamey Wright came on in the sixth and shut them down.

Bootcheck provided a highlight for the Angels when he replaced Dustin Moseley with a runner on third in the sixth, Ian Kinsler having tripled home a run, and proceeded to strike out the side. Two .300 hitters -- Young and Marlon Byrd -- were Bootcheck victims, his fastball hitting 95 and 96 on the gun.

"Boot's throwing the heck out of the ball," Scioscia said. "He's really having a terrific second half."

Bootcheck has given up four earned runs in his past 23 1/3 innings (13 appearances) for a 1.54 ERA in his past 13 appearances.

Thompson, a 23-year-old Australian making his Major League debut, struck out the first two men he faced in the eighth -- Jason Botts (offspeed), Jarrod Saltalamacchia (94 mph heater). Kinsler doubled, but was stranded.

Bulger, 28, from Atlanta, also was impressive in a return to the Majors, having pitched for the Diamondbacks in 2005 and the Angels the following season.

Coming on in the ninth, the big right-hander retired Young and Byrd, walked Wilkerson and struck out Nelson Cruz with a 94 mph fastball.

"Thompson and Bulger showed why they've been throwing the ball so well," Scioscia said. "They've got power arms. They pitched a nice eighth and ninth inning."

Escobar came into the game with the AL's best home ERA -- 2.32, and the best ERA in daylight (1.60) as well. What seemed to be an ideal environment quickly unraveled for the Venezuelan ace in the second and got progressively worse.

"I knew I didn't have my best stuff," Escobar said. "I was trying to find a way to get back in my rhythm."

Not enough rhythm and a whole lot of blues on a rare off day by the man with Cy Young Award credentials.

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

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