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Angels-Yankees matchup: Third base

Angels-Yankees matchup: Third base

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Heading into the American League Championship Series between the Yankees and Angels, beginning Friday at 7:57 p.m. ET on FOX, MLB.com looks at the position-by-position matchups and dissects which team has the advantage.

Chone Figgins, Angels
.298, 5 HR, 54 RBIs

Figgins has been Mr. Everything for the Angels for a long time now. It's amazing to think: He actually broke in with them back late in the magical 2002 World Series season, making news and noise on the basepaths from the outset. Since then, he has served the club in the outfield, the middle infield and third base. He has led the team in steals and is the only active player to have reached 30 steals in each of the last six seasons.

No, that is not the typical resume of a starting third baseman in the ALCS. But the Angels aren't necessarily a normal team in that respect, so Figgins fits right in. Providing what manager Mike Scioscia has called Gold Glove-caliber defense on top of a career regular season at the plate, Figgins has been a vital part of the Angels' success.

An All-Star for the first time this year, Figgins scored a career-high 114 runs, just one shy of AL leader Dustin Pedroia of Boston. One big reason for that is that Figgins became the first Angel to reach 100 walks since slugger Troy Glaus in 2001, with an AL-high 101. So, in essence, he did everything one would want from a leadoff hitter -- he got on base (team-high .395 OBP), and he scored a lot.

In his sixth postseason, Figgins got off to a hitless start in the Division Series, striking out six times in 12 at-bats, scoring once after his one walk of the series. That's obviously an anomaly for the Angels' 5-foot-9 firestarter, so his presence is likely to be felt more in the ALCS.

Alex Rodriguez, Yankees
.286, 30 HR, 100 RBIs

Rodriguez put any playoff struggles he may have had in the past behind him with a monster series against the Twins in the ALDS.

It's not just that Rodriguez hit .455 with a pair of homers and six RBIs in the three-game sweep, it's the fact that Rodriguez delivered when his team most needed him to. Entering the series, Rodriguez was in the midst of an 0-for-19 streak with runners in scoring position in the postseason.

Rodriguez ended that with a fifth-inning RBI hit in Game 1 and he built on that with two more hits with runners in scoring position. Then Rodriguez obliterated any memory of not coming through in the clutch when he hit a game-tying two-run homer off Twins closer Joe Nathan in the ninth inning of Game 2.

In Game 3 he tied things up at 1 with a solo shot off Carl Pavano in the seventh inning. In fact, of his five hits in the series, every one of them drove home at least one run.

Rodriguez began Spring Training with plenty of distractions, following his admission to taking performance-enhancing drugs in 2001-03, and he began the season on the disabled list following surgery on his right hip. With him out, the Yankees were 13-15. Once he returned on May 8, the Bombers took off, going 90-44 the rest of the way.

The effect he had on Mark Teixeira was noticeable as well. Prior to Rodriguez's return to the lineup, Teixeira hit just .198.

New York skipper Joe Girardi gave Rodriguez days off during the season to keep him fresh and that strategy appears to be paying off, with Rodriguez finishing strong with a .344 batting average in September leading into his October success.

Rodriguez was especially potent against the Angels this year, hitting .333 with five homers in 24 at-bats against the Halos. The five homers were the most he hit against any team this year.

Edge: Yankees

Steve Gilbert is a reporter and John Schlegel is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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