ANAHEIM, Calif. -- The elbow problems that plagued Kelvim Escobar throughout 2005 are behind him, and he's returned to the form that convinced the Angels to take a chance and give him a long-term contract.
Escobar pitched a three-hitter for his second complete game of the season and the AL West leaders beat the Minnesota Twins 5-1 Tuesday night for their fifth straight victory.
"I'm the same Kelvin that you guys have seen the last few years. I'm just having better results," Escobar said. "It's been a long time since I've felt the way I am right now. My arm feels great, it feels strong, and I'm working day in and day out to stay healthy. All I do is prepare myself physically to put myself in a good position to help this team make the playoffs."
Escobar (7-3) won for the sixth time in eight starts, striking out four and walking three. It was the ninth time he's gone the distance in 182 career starts and first time since May 10, when he scattered seven hits in an 8-0 win against Cleveland at Angel Stadium. The three hits are the fewest he's ever allowed in a complete game.
"It doesn't happen all the time, but you definitely want to finish it up," Escobar said after his 107-pitch effort. "They didn't even ask me how I felt at that point. I had good stuff tonight. I was just pounding the strike zone and using all my pitches. One thing you want to do is be consistent -- and I think for the most part, I've been able to do that."
Casey Kotchman homered for the Angels (38-22), who are off to the best start in franchise history and have the most wins in the majors. They've won 16 of their last 20 overall, are 16 games over .500 for the first time this season, and own the best home record in the majors at 24-8.
Scott Baker (1-1) was charged with five runs and nine hits in 5 2/3 innings. He is 0-3 with a 6.64 ERA in four career starts against the Angels.
Escobar and Baker each walked the leadoff batter in the first two innings, but Baker was the only one to get burned. Reggie Willits took third on Orlando Cabrera's hit-and-run single in the first and scored on Vladimir Guerrero's double-play grounder. Guerrero made it 2-0 in the third with an RBI single.
"The way they're swinging now, I'm not going to give them anything to hit," Baker said. "They're really aggressive, so my objective tonight was to let them get themselves out. They're not going to strike out a lot and miss a lot of pitches, so I basically just wanted to make them hit my pitch. I made a couple of mistakes toward the end, but I really felt like I battled real well."
Torii Hunter, who came in 1-for-18 against Escobar, drove the right-hander's first pitch of the fifth inning to right-center for his 13th homer and the first allowed by Escobar in a span of 50 1/3 innings.
"He was impressive, like always. That's why I'm 2-for-20 off him, or something like that," Hunter said. "He was keeping guys off-balance, hitting his spots and everything. It seemed like he's developed a changeup and guys can't get the fat part of the bat on the ball. He's throwing 93-94, and you get jammed by his fastball. When pitchers are hot like that, you can't get 'em. And with Escobar, it seems like I always catch him at the wrong time."
Kotchman hit his seventh home run in the sixth after Baker opened the inning with two strikeouts. It was the third time he has gone deep in his last five starts at first base.
- CBC commentator and renowned clothes horse Don Cherry, in town to broadcast Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Finals on Wednesday, attended the Angels-Twins game with Hockey Night in Canada colleague Ron MacLean as guests of Minnesota 1B and fellow Canadian Justin Morneau.
- Morneau is staying behind after Wednesday's matinee to attend the Ducks-Senators game with tickets he got from Ducks defenseman Chris Pronger, whom he met on an off-day during last year's Cup Finals when Pronger was with the Edmonton Oilers. Morneau will fly back to Minnesota on Thursday.
- Plate umpire Gerry Davis called batter's interference against Gary Matthews Jr. in the third inning while Guerrero tried to steal second. Angels manager Mike Scioscia made an impressive bid to become the eighth big league manager to get ejected this week, but Davis let him have his say despite a heated argument.