10/05/08 4:26 PM ET
Figgins hopes to stir Angels' offense
Leadoff hitter vital to Anaheim's chances in Game 3
By Lyle Spencer / MLB.com
Chone Figgins -- "Fig" to his friends in the clubhouse -- will take the first swings at Red Sox ace Josh Beckett. While it might be a stretch to suggest the Angels go as goes Figgins, he is the spark plug in the engine that drives the offense.
When Fig is on his game, the Angels are, as manager Mike Sciosica likes to put it, "in their game." When the leadoff catalyst struggles, their attack tends to idle.
Figgins has the ability to lift his teammates with his ability to get on base and distract the opposition with his speed and daring.
"That's my role, to get the offense going," Figgins said. "We take a lot of pride in being able to pressure teams, and I like to be a big part of that. We like our aggressive style of baseball. I'm feeling pretty good up there right now."
With Figgins hitless in five at-bats in Game 1 at Angel Stadium, the offense produced one run. With Figgins delivering an RBI single and a triple leading to the tying run, they scored five times in Game 2. That's normally enough with their pitching staff, but on this occasion, J.D. Drew launched a two-run homer in the ninth inning against Francisco Rodriguez that left the Angels on the precipice.
"Figgy's one of the best leadoff men in the game," center fielder Torii Hunter said. "I think he found something in his swing the other night with that triple. I know he changes the game. For [the Red Sox], it's [Jacoby] Ellsbury who changes the game.
"When those guys get on, you've got to throw fastballs. You don't want them stealing bases on you. So that helps the guys coming up behind [Figgins]."
With Figgins leading off, the Angels were 70-42 this season, a .625 winning percentage. With others in that role, as Figgins dealt with right hamstring issues on two occasions, they were 30-20 -- .600 baseball. Still good, just not quite as good.
Figgins is the franchise leader in career steals with 238 and has the second highest steals total (223) in the AL since the start of the 2004 season. Only the Rays' Carl Crawford, with 238, has stolen more bases over that span.
Scioscia leans on his 5-foot-8, 180-pound powder keg for production, but he never wants a player to feel it's all on his shoulders.
"I don't think it's fair to focus on one guy and say, 'Hey, if this guy goes, we're going to have to go,'" Scioscia said. "You have to be more than that, and we are. But certainly Chone has the ability to set the tone in what he does in the leadoff spot, and he's done a great job of it."
Scioscia, in his fashion, was stressing the need to keep applying pressure on the opposition, and not only from the top of the order.
"We certainly need a deep lineup for us to get to be where we need to be," Scioscia said. "But I think the thing that gives us hope is we know this stuff can turn on a dime. It can change in a heartbeat.
"If our lineup gets deep and gets productive, it can ride you a long ways. So we need that to surface. We're confident it will. It can't be two or three guys in the middle of your lineup that carry you through a situation. Hopefully, these [other] guys will start to contribute."
The heart of the Angels' order -- Mark Teixeira, Vladimir Guerrero and Hunter -- is afire. The 3-4-5 hitters are a combined 14-for-23 (.609) through two games, accounting for half the team's six runs scored (all three by Teixeira) and half of its runs batted in (all three by Hunter).
The rest of the offense is 6-for-50, a .120 average.
Figgins and No. 2 hitter Garret Anderson have a bond, on the field and off. They have flourished together since Anderson was moved from sixth to second in the order late in the season.
Having reached base four times combined in 19 at-bats with two hits each, they know there's no time like the present to make some more noise together.
Anderson had singles in his first two-at bats in the series, but has gone hitless in his past seven plate appearances. He suffered bad luck in Game 2, lining out to right field in the first inning and sending Drew against the right-field wall to flag down a drive in the sixth inning that seemed to have home-run depth off the bat.
"It's just a matter of hitting the ball hard and finding some holes, for both of us," Figgins said. "Garret's always been a clutch player, a big-time player. I like having him in that No. 2 spot, because we know each other so well."
Locker mates in the home clubhouse, they're close to inseparable. Generally, when you see Anderson, his buddy is right next to him, literally looking up to him. They talk incessantly about the inner game, discussing pitchers' strengths and weaknesses and game situations.
"Garret's always set a tone on this team with his professionalism, his ability to keep an even keel, no matter what the situation is," Figgins said. "He's been a leader on this team for a long time."
The possibility exists that Anderson, a potential free agent if the Angels buy out his contract option, is playing his final baseball for the team that has been part of his life since 1990. It's not something he cares to dwell on with so much on the line.
"I'm a one-day-at-a-time person," Anderson said. "We've got some work left to do here."
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.