10/23/09 2:45 AM ET
Angels need spark from Figgins, Abreu
Duo scuffling after igniting offense during regular season
By Lyle Spencer / MLB.com
In step for 162 games -- setting the table, scoring runs and, in Abreu's case, driving them in with characteristic consistency -- the duo has been truly dynamic.
"We've had a lot of fun," Abreu said, grinning. "We've played very well together, Figgy and me."
Through five American League Championship Series games, however, they've been kept quiet by a Yankees pitching staff that has controlled an attack that set franchise records for runs scored and batting average.
Neither Figgins nor Abreu is showing any signs of strain or panic despite combining for only three hits in the series. Figgins went 0-for-3 in Game 5 to drop his average to .105, while Abreu went 1-for-5 to lift his average to .143.
"We have to play free, go back to doing what we did all season," Abreu said. "We've been trying to do too much, especially with guys in scoring position. We have to relax and play our game.
"[CC] Sabathia and those guys have been making good pitches, but there's no reason why we can't score some runs and win a game, keep this going."
Figgins has three walks and has been hit by a pitch, while Abreu has drawn four walks, three intentional. Sabathia and Co. have been putting quality pitches in good locations, with a special emphasis on containing the two men who make everything go.
"The hits we're getting, they're battle hits," Figgins said. "It's not like we're getting in hitters' counts. We get to 2-2, and they're making good pitches. They're not giving in.
"It's the best of the best we're facing, guys like Sabathia and Mariano [Rivera]. The only mistake Sabathia made all night [in Game 4] was the one that [Kendry] Morales hit out, a fastball up. Everything else he threw was down and in tough spots. He makes you put it in play on tough pitches to hit."
Sabathia and Rivera have accounted for 21 of the Yankees' 49 2/3 innings, Sabathia yielding nine hits in 16 innings, Rivera one in five innings.
"Sabathia knows that we've hit him in the past," Figgins said. "He knows the magnitude of these games, and he's performed. We just haven't been able to put runners on and get into our game.
"When we run, we feed off each other and get momentum going. We haven't been able to do that yet."
The Angels had two steals in three attempts through four games before swiping a pair of bases in Game 5.
"We need to get Figgy and Bobby going -- we need them in their games," said manager Mike Scioscia, who toyed with the idea of dropping Abreu to third in the lineup against A.J. Burnett with Maicer Izturis in the No. 2 spot, but decided to keep Figgins and Abreu 1-2.
Figgins, like Abreu, is an impending free agent. A cornerstone since his emergence in 2003 as a versatile, dynamic athlete, Figgins knows this could be his final appearance in Angels colors.
Figgins is one of two players left from the 2002 World Series championship cast -- not counting disabled setup man Scot Shields, who is recovering from knee surgery. The other holdover from '02, Game 5 starter John Lackey, also is prepared to enter free agency for the first time.
"I haven't thought about that yet," Figgins said. "I'm trying to keep from thinking about it. It's not time yet -- not time to worry about stuff like that yet.
"We've still got one game to go. We have to win this one to go anywhere."
Thursday's win sends the Angels back to New York, where they dropped the first two games, along with some balls that they rarely bungled while playing consistently excellent defense all year.
Figgins, whose play at third base was Gold Glove-caliber along with shortstop Erick Aybar and perennial Gold Glover Torii Hunter, narrowly missed one goal -- playing all 162 games. He sat out four, under Scioscia's orders.
Figgins did reach other goals, such as 100 walks (101), 40 steals (42) and 100 runs (114, second in the league by one to Boston's Dustin Pedroia). Figgins fell just shy of .300 at .298 and raised his on-base percentage to .395 from a .365 career norm.
For that last achievement, he repeatedly praised Abreu for his wisdom and a disciplined approach that impacted, in Figgins' view, "every hitter on this team."
Batting .293 with a .390 on-base percentage, Abreu scored 96 runs and drove in 103. With 30 steals, he became only the fifth player in history with five seasons of at least 30 thefts and 100 or more RBIs.
Abreu achieved a handful of significant milestones in his first season with the Angels, including 2,000 career hits, 250 homers and at least 150 games played for the 12th consecutive season.
By playing at least 150 again next season -- wherever he lands -- Abreu would join Willie Mays as the only players in history to do that 13 consecutive seasons. Billy Williams, Pete Rose and Cal Ripken Jr. are the only others to do it 12 years running.
"I've loved playing here, and I hope I'm back," Abreu said. "We'll have to wait and see how it turns out.
"Right now, I'm only thinking about getting a win and taking this series back to New York."
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.