10/19/09 11:07 PM ET
As ignitor Figgins goes, so go Angels
Halos hoping speedy infielder is back to his on-base ways
By Lyle Spencer / MLB.com
The leadoff catalyst, uncharacteristically quiet in the first four games of the postseason, flipped the "on" switch in Game 2 of the American League Championship Series at Yankee Stadium on Saturday night.
In seven plate appearances, he reached base four times, was robbed of a hit by Johnny Damon in left and put a sacrifice bunt down in the 13th inning that moved a runner into scoring position, only to be left there when David Robertson, the last of the Yankees' relievers behind A.J. Burnett, slammed the door.
Figgins' RBI single to left against Alfredo Aceves in the 11th ended an 0-for-18 dry spell in this postseason. A Gold Glove candidate at third base, Figgins would have been the postgame focus if not for a pitch that Brian Fuentes left in Alex Rodriguez's happy zone leading off the bottom half of the inning that reached the seats in right, tying the game.
Robbed three times of hits by Red Sox center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury in the AL Division Series, Figgins shrugged when asked if it was a relief to finally cut loose with a performance consistent with his highly productive season.
"Nah,'cause we lost," he said. "It would have been great to get a win. In this case, it doesn't matter. We lost. That's the story."
Figgins was feeling much better in the afterglow of Monday's dramatic 5-4 win in 11 innings, despite having a less productive offensive day with one hit in five at-bats.
Despite all that activity, Figgins -- whose 114 runs were one shy of AL leader Dustin Pedroia in the regular season -- did not score.
His top-of-the-order partner, No. 2 hitter Bobby Abreu, struggled in his old stomping grounds, going hitless in nine at-bats with two walks, both coming in his final two at-bats of Game 2. Abreu delivered a double and single in Game 3 but was trapped off second in a rare baserunning misadventure.
"We just need to play our game," Figgins said. "If we get a few hits to fall and stay aggressive on the bases, we'll be all right."
Angels manager Mike Scioscia saw the silver lining provided by Figgins with the sharpened quality of his work at the plate on an otherwise dark Saturday night in Gotham.
"Figgy had good at-bats," Scioscia said. "He drew two walks, got hit by a pitch, got that big base hit when we needed it.
"That's what we need to do -- start putting some balls in play in run-scoring situations. That'll make a difference in our offense."
Figgins has seen the Angels explode for extended periods en route to establishing a club record for runs scored.
From June through August, they were a deep and destructive offensive force, peaking in July with an average of 7.1 runs per game. After a slumber in early September, they finished strong and raked Boston pitching.
"We're a line-drive-hitting team," Figgins said. "When you have an offense like ours, you can run into little periods where things don't go your way.
"Guys will make great pitches on you, guys will make diving catches in the field. But you can't change your approach. You have to stick with what you've done."
That also is Abreu's mantra, one he has carried through a remarkable career.
"Don't change anything now, because it's the postseason," Abreu said. "Play your game. Keep faith in your teammates. That's what you have to do."
The Yankees certainly know all there is to know about Abreu as a hitter, having employed him for 2 1/2 seasons. Three of his four strikeouts have come looking at third strikes, a price Abreu sometimes pays for his matchless discipline.
"Bobby is comfortable hitting with two strikes," Figgins said. "More often than not, he'll hit that two-strike pitch hard somewhere."
That's what happened in the fateful ninth inning at Fenway Park in Game 3 of the ALDS.
Abreu's two-out, two-strike RBI double off The Green Monster against Jonathan Papelbon -- following Erick Aybar's two-strike single and Figgins' full-count walk -- preceded Vladimir Guerrero's two-run single to center that left New England demoralized by an unexpected sweep.
"That pitch was up," Abreu said, "but I put a good swing on it and hit it in a good place."
The Angels need a return to that brand of assertive offense to get back in the ALCS against a Yankees outfit that is stacked in every department and supremely confident.
Figgins, whose .395 on-base percentage was 30 points higher than his career figure, knows the Angels have the talent to turn things around and make this a series very quickly.
"We can compete against anybody," the third baseman said. "It's just a matter of taking advantage of opportunities and making it happen."
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.