ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Jason Vargas doesn't want to be called "Mr. May." That was reserved for Dave Winfield, as dubbed by George Steinbrenner, years ago. Even still, it's hard to argue with results.
Vargas threw seven solid innings to conclude his strong month, leading the Los Angeles Angels to a 3-2 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Thursday night at Angel Stadium.
Vargas gave up two runs and five hits to improve to 5-0 with a 2.30 ERA in the month, marking the first time an Angels pitcher won five games in May since 1996, when Shawn Boskie did it.
In fact, a solid May has been typical for Vargas throughout his career. His 2.78 ERA in May since 2009 is the best in the American League, and he simply continued that this season.
"I don't really have an answer for that, other than getting more outs," Vargas said about his turnaround after going 0-3 with a 4.85 ERA in five April starts. "There wasn't anything that I tried to change to try to do differently, just being more consistent."
The Angels and Dodgers split their four-game series, the Angels winning both of their home games after the Dodgers won two at Dodger Stadium. Vargas followed up a strong outing by Jered Weaver one night earlier.
"He's a guy that's going to try to change speeds," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said of Vargas. "He's going to try to beat you with add, subtract, use his changeup, elevate the fastball a little bit. He's a guy that's gonna have to beat you by changing speeds and hitting spots."
Garrett Richards (eighth inning) and Ernesto Frieri (ninth inning, 12th save) finished it off for the Angels in relief of Vargas (5-3).
Left-hander Ted Lilly (0-2) kept the Dodgers in the game, but it wasn't good enough. He gave up three runs and five hits in 5 2/3 innings.
Ramon Hernandez hit a double and a home run for the Dodgers, who had six hits in all. Howie Kendrick, Chris Nelson and J.B. Shuck each had two hits for the Angels.
The game was tied at 2 going into the bottom of the sixth inning when Kendrick doubled and stole third. With two outs, Chris Iannetta worked a walk, and that was all for Lilly. Mattingly brought in Ronald Belisario to face Nelson, who was making his first start of the season for the Angels since being claimed off waivers from the Yankees.
Nelson hit a sharp comebacker that Belisario couldn't handle, the ball deflecting to second baseman Mark Ellis, who had no play. The infield single scored Kendrick to give the Angels a 3-2 lead.
"If the ball doesn't hit Belly, we probably catch it," Mattingly said. "I mean, it's not one of those I'm going to lose sleep over."
Carl Crawford opened the game with a triple into the right field corner off Vargas, and he scored on Adrian Gonzalez's sacrifice fly. The Dodgers loaded the bases with two outs in the second inning, but Vargas escaped when he retired Crawford on a fly to left.
The Angels tied the game at 1 in their half of the second inning, Iannetta's two-out double scoring Kendrick.
The Angels took a 2-1 lead in the fourth inning when Kendrick tripled and scored on a single by Alberto Callaspo. The Dodgers tied the game at 2 in the top of the fifth on a solo homer by Hernandez.
"We've been playing good baseball, and we're having a lot of fun, too," Kendrick said of the Angels, who have won 10 of their last 12 games. "We're a lot more relaxed and enjoying ourselves. Even in tight situations, we've been pulling through, having fun and coming up with some big hits. And there's a bunch of different guys doing it. That's exciting."
NOTES: Dodgers CF Matt Kemp was placed on the 15-day disabled list because of a strained right hamstring. He injured the hamstring chasing down a drive to the right-center-field gap hit by the Angels' Mike Trout in Wednesday's game. The injury is not believed to be as serious as the left hamstring injury that kept Kemp out for two months last season. ... Andre Ethier started in center field Thursday with Kemp sidelined. It was Ethier's second career start in center. ... The Dodgers are likely to call up Tony Gwynn Jr. from Triple-A Albuquerque sometime this weekend to play center field in Kemp's absence. Gwynn is hitting .288 for the Isotopes. ... Angels RF Josh Hamilton was scratched from the lineup because of back spasms. It is the second time in three days Hamilton was in the original lineup only to be a late scratch because of back trouble. Mark Trumbo started in right field. Hamilton felt good enough to enter the game in the eighth inning.