As soon as he left, everything changed.
Ken Griffey Jr.'s tiebreaking sacrifice fly in the seventh inning helped Cincinnati survive Escobar's overpowering performance on Tuesday night, rallying the Reds to a 5-3 victory over the Los Angeles Angels.
Escobar struck out a career-high 14 -- including Griffey twice -- in six innings, making the Reds look feeble.
"I was able to put guys away with fastballs, splitters and sliders," Escobar said. "Everything was working good -- my changeup, my fastball. I punched guys out with all of my pitches."
One problem: He threw too many. All those strikeouts inflated his pitch count to a season-high 116, forcing him out after six innings.
"I'm glad we're not facing him again," Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips said.
Singles by Scott Hatteberg and Phillips off Dustin Moseley (4-1) set up the tiebreaking run, and Griffey's fly to right off Darren Oliver snapped a 3-all tie. A fielding error by second baseman Erick Aybar let in another run in the eighth.
The Angels lost for only the ninth time in their last 32 games, a streak that has sent them to the top of the AL West. Their 40-25 mark is the best in franchise history -- the 1979, '80 and '02 teams had 39 wins at the same point of the season.
Despite the victory, Cincinnati remains at the bottom of the National League at 26-39 and is already looking at things in a much longer perspective.
"Well, you always hope for the best," Griffey said. "Sometimes, things don't work out, but if you keep pushing and getting better, you can start looking forward to next year -- not that I'm saying this year's over."
Escobar dominated in the Angels' first game in Cincinnati. His 14 strikeouts were the most by an Angels pitcher since Chuck Finley fanned 15 Yankees on May 23, 1995.
Escobar has pitched two of his greatest games at Great American Ball Park, which has been one of the most homer-friendly in the majors since it opened in 2003.
In his only other appearance at Great American, he led Toronto to a 5-0 win on June 8, 2003. That game was a turning point for Escobar, who had lost his job as the Blue Jays' closer a month earlier. He also had a single for his first career hit and RBI.
It was like old times in his return. Escobar struck out eight of the first 11 batters he faced on Tuesday, and had a single that set up a run -- his second hit in 23 career at-bats.
"I only have two hits in my career, and they were both here," Escobar said. "This is a hitter's park."
A hit and a slide by Josh Hamilton led to Escobar's only bad inning.
Hamilton doubled home a run in the fourth and extended the rally with a strategic slide. He ran to third on a grounder by Alex Gonzalez and pulled his hand away to avoid Chone Figgins' tag, later stretching to get the bag. The move paid off when David Ross followed with a squeeze bunt for a 3-2 lead.
"On a couple of defensive plays, we opened the door for them a little bit and they took advantage of it," manager Mike Scioscia said. "Kelv certain put us in position to win that game, and we didn't."
Arroyo remained stuck in his rut. The right-hander gave up three runs in six innings, throwing 115 pitches. He hasn't won since May 6, going 0-5 in his last seven starts with a 7.65 ERA.
- The Angels and Reds have played a series once before, with the Angels taking two of three in California in 2002.
- Los Angeles' Garret Anderson was out of the lineup for the second straight game because of tightness in his right leg.
- RHP Jered Weaver felt better Tuesday after visiting a chiropractor and was expected to make his next scheduled start. Weaver left Sunday's game with tightness in his lower back.
- Scioscia dropped Reggie Willits from the leadoff spot to eighth in the order because he has been struggling lately.
- Figgins had a pair of hits and extended his hitting streak to a season-high 11 games.
- The Reds struck out 16 times overall, matching their second-highest total for a nine-inning game.