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BILL SHAIKIN / ON BASEBALL

Angels need to play their game

The team needs to get Chone Figgins, who is 0-4 in every postseason game, to get on base.

October 17, 2009|BILL SHAIKIN | ON BASEBALL

The clock was about to strike midnight. The clubhouse was all but empty. Most of the players had showered, dressed and departed.

Jeff Mathis wandered over to his locker, his right hand iced and wrapped. He had been bruised. His team had been beaten.

Mathis had been injured, albeit not seriously, in a collision with Alex Rodriguez at home plate. Rodriguez did not slide, but neither did he lead with his forearms. With his palms open, he rolled into Mathis, hard, and then tumbled atop him.

On some teams, that might have been cause for payback, either because of the injury Mathis suffered or to try to get into the head of Rodriguez, who is often reminded of his October failures and often remembered for slapping the ball of Bronson Arroyo's glove in a playoff game against the Boston Red Sox.

The Angels don't play that game. They did not force any of the action on Friday night -- not on the bases and not with any gamesmanship -- but the Yankees did.

Rodriguez had run through a stop sign, and he might have slid toward an open edge of home plate.

"Once I screwed up, I figured my only shot to be safe was just to run him over," Rodriguez said.

The Angels absolved him of any foul play. Mathis, who left the game for a pinch-hitter and not because of the bruised hand, said he had "no problem" with the play.

"Absolutely, it's a clean play," Angels Manager Mike Scioscia said. "He was trying to score. It's going to be a bang-bang play. Nothing wrong with that."

Something is wrong with Chone Figgins, the Angels' leadoff hitter and resident sparkplug. He did not get a hit in the first round, but Bobby Abreu compensated by getting on base nine times in 13 tries.

Abreu went 0-for-4 on Friday, so Torii Hunter never batted with a runner on base. Figgins went 0-for-4, again.

The Angels have played four postseason games. Figgins has gone 0-for-4 in every one.

"We've got to get Figgy on," Hunter said. "If we don't, we're in trouble."

CC Sabathia pitched eight innings on Friday, in large part because the Angels never got the leadoff hitter on base against him. Figgins, who led the American League in walks and ranked second in runs, has scored one run in these playoffs, following his one walk.

In 16 at-bats, he has seven strikeouts, and no hits.

After the game, Figgins repeated his refrain about having good at-bats but not getting good results.

Upon further questioning, he acknowledged that the Angels might not get good results in this series if he does not.

"It doesn't help," Figgins said. "I personally love trying to get on base and create havoc. I'm having good at-bats. I'd like to see some results before this ends.

"I just need to get some hits and some walks. It's pretty simple."

The Yankees got a hit from their leadoff batter, Derek Jeter, to start the first inning. Jeter followed with a pretty fair Figgins impersonation.

He was off and running. So were the Yankees, who scored two runs in the inning and never trailed.

After Jeter singled, Johnny Damon did too, a line drive down the left-field line. There went Jeter, taking a page out of the Angels playbook, racing from first base to third -- on a ball hit to left field, no less.

"You do that, it puts a little pressure on the defense," Jeter said. "We know how aggressive they are. But we can do the same thing."

Juan Rivera, appearing a bit startled by Jeter's boldness, redirected his throw toward second base, but poorly. Rivera's throw was wide of the base, so wide that Damon reached second easily.

Rivera got the error, the Yankees got two runners into scoring position, and you almost expected to see a rally monkey pop up on the scoreboard.

The Angels can't win at the Yankees' slugging game, but they can't let the Yankees beat them at their own game. If Figgins and Abreu aren't scampering around the bases tonight, a two-games-to-none deficit might be beyond the powers of a rally monkey.

--

bill.shaikin@latimes.com

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