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Escobar's been a hit all season10/07/2004 5:00 PM ET
By Jesse Sanchez / MLB.com
ANAHEIM -- The numbers suggest Kelvim Escobar, the closer-turned-starter with a losing record in 2004 and no playoff experience, could be overmatched against the mighty Boston Red Sox offense and the not-so-friendly confines of Fenway Park. The numbers sometimes lie. "I feel good and I am ready," Escobar said about his Game 3 start in the American League Division Series on Friday. "Depending what happens [Wednesday] it is going to be a very important game. One thing that I will tell you, I am ready for them." The truth is, Escobar went 11-12 with a 3.93 ERA in 33 starts for the Angels in 2004, but got by with only a little help from his friends. He received only 3.91 runs of support during his starts, and of the 10 times the Angels were shut out this season, five of them came during Escobar's starts. That's not to say he did not witness a lot runs, they just came when he was not pitching. In the 33 games played immediately before a start by Escobar, the Angels averaged almost six runs. Moreover, he received 2.5 runs of support in June and won only one game despite a 2.88 ERA. It's enough to make most pitchers bitter. But Escobar, the tough Venezuelan with a nasty slider and splitter, is not like most pitchers. "I was very happy with the way I was throwing, because I think I did one of the things that I wanted to when I signed here as a free agent," he said. "It was to be a consistent pitcher, and I think I did that and that really made me very proud of myself." He has plenty to be proud of. Escobar tied Bartolo Colon to lead the club in innings pitched with 208 1/3 and also led the club in strikeouts with 191. He ranked 10th in the AL in ERA, fourth in strikeouts and eighth in opponents' batting average at with .244. He made 19 quality starts for the season, including 17 of his last 26 appearances. "The only thing deceiving is the number of wins he has," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "I think probably the opposite of Bartolo, where you look at some of his numbers, ERA, and say, 'How did he win 18?' look at Kelvim Escobar's number and you are going to shake your head and say, 'How didn't he win 18 or 20?' "
One more win from Escobar will be good enough for now. He was 0-1 with a 4.50 ERA in six innings in his lone start against the Red Sox this season, allowing eight hits and striking out six. For his career, he is 5-6 with a 5.12 ERA in 77 1/3 innings against Boston, with most of his experience coming while playing for Toronto.In 19 career games at Fenway Park, Escobar is 3-3 with two saves and 5.20 ERA in 45 innings. "I think being a part of the Blue Jays, I played there many, many times, and I think it's one of the best places to play baseball," he said. "I mean, defense, the atmosphere, it's great. And for some reason, late in my career, I always have the best pitching in Fenway Park. I like it. I like pitching there. It's great." A great performance from Escobar on Friday would be welcomed, but even a good start will do. If he keeps pitching the way he has all season -- he won six of his final 10 decisions -- the Angels feel they have a chance at victory. In his last start, he pitched 5 1/3 strong innings against Oakland on three days' rest in the second-to-last game of the season to help the Angels clinch the AL West. "Guys who have seen him day-in and day-out know he has been our most consistent pitcher, and particularly coming down the stretch what he did on three days' rest a couple times was incredible," Scioscia said. "Kelvim has definitely been, you know, I think the lead dog of our staff as far as our rotation and he very easily could be sitting right now as a candidate for Cy Young if he had the support that we should have given him."
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
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