This Angels loss is a gain


The Angels do not pretend they can slug their way to victory.

They build upon a foundation of starting pitching. Two months into the season, that foundation is back intact.

Kelvim Escobar offered the Angels five encouraging innings Saturday, returning from shoulder surgery and making his first major league appearance in 20 months. The Angels did not fret about their 2-1 loss to the Detroit Tigers, for the wait is officially over.


The Angels finally have their starting five: Escobar, John Lackey, Jered Weaver, Ervin Santana and Joe Saunders.

“I don’t think many teams around the league have five quality starters like we do,” Escobar said, “guys that have proven they can pitch.”

Which teams in the league can match the quality and experience of the Angels’ rotation? Escobar paused to ponder the question, then spoke up.

“I don’t think anybody does,” he said.

The Tigers might dispute that, when they get Jeremy Bonderman back from the disabled list this week. Their starters already have the lowest earned-run average in the league, and the best figure among that group does not belong to Justin Verlander.

No, it belongs to Edwin Jackson, and it’s not close. Jackson, the onetime Dodgers prospect, pitched a four-hit complete game in lowering his ERA to 2.16, second in the league to Zack Greinke of the Kansas City Royals.

Jackson finished in grand style, striking out Bobby Abreu, Vladimir Guerrero and Torii Hunter in the ninth inning, with fastballs running up to 98 mph. He walked one, struck out five and made 109 pitches.


“The kid’s always had a great arm,” Angels Manager Mike Scioscia said. “He showed another gear tonight.”

Chone Figgins singled to start the game, and Abreu doubled him home. Jackson faced 29 more batters in getting 27 outs.

The Tigers took the lead -- and concluded the scoring -- in the bottom of the first inning. With one out, three consecutive batters reached base, with Magglio Ordonez tying the score with a single that drove home Placido Polanco.

Curtis Granderson followed with a sacrifice fly, and the Tigers had their second and final run.

In that first inning, his first in the majors in almost two years, Escobar threw 30 pitches, 16 of them balls.

“I was very excited,” he said. “I wasn’t pitching at all. I was just throwing. I was very anxious.

“After that, I was able to settle down.”

He became more efficient in subsequent innings, although he never did quite regain top form. He made 92 pitches in five innings, giving up four hits and four walks and striking out five.

“I feel good,” he said. “That’s the most important thing.”

There was some question about whether he could recover his velocity after shoulder surgery, but there was no question about his fastball on Saturday. It was clocked regularly between 93 and 96 mph.

Lackey and Santana rejoined the rotation three weeks ago. Escobar got back Saturday.

The Angels have played exactly one-third of their schedule, and the defending American League West champions are 3 1/2 games behind the first-place Texas Rangers.

For the Angels, it’s go time.

“Obviously, with our club, we rely on pitching a little more than other clubs,” Scioscia said. “To get that part of it settled is important to us.”