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Figgins' slump-buster almost game-winner

Figgins' slump-buster almost game-winner

NEW YORK -- In the first two games of the American League Championship Series at Yankee Stadium, the shortest player on the field couldn't seem to find his way out of the spotlight.

The Angels' leadoff man and third baseman, Chone Figgins, was considered one of the goats on Friday night, less for a singularly poor performance than for the accumulation of zeros in his box score. Figgins entered Game 2 hitless in four postseason games this season and in 19 at-bats, dating back to last October.

A defensive miscommunication between Figgins and shortstop Erick Aybar on a popup in Game 1 didn't help lessen the attention.

But Figgins was potentially part of some good headlines for Saturday's classic Game 2, which the Angels lost to the Yankees, 4-3. His soft liner to left in the 11th inning broke his postseason slump and handed the Angels their first lead of the series. It was short-lived, however, merely setting the stage for more autumnal heroics from Alex Rodriguez, who tied the game at 3 with a leadoff homer in the bottom of the inning off closer Brian Fuentes.

The Yankees' winning run two frames later perhaps scored more easily than it should have because of Figgins. The third baseman properly backed up Maicer Izturis' errant throw to second base, but Figgins wasn't able to field the ball cleanly. Instead, it glanced off his glove, allowing Jerry Hairston Jr. to score from second on the play without a throw.

"I usually back up double plays no matter what the situation," Figgins said. "It just hit my glove and kind of bounced off."

AL Championship Series
Gm. 1 NYY 4, LAA 1 Wrap Video
Gm. 2 NYY 4, LAA 3 Wrap Video
Gm. 3 LAA 5, NYY 4 Wrap Video
Gm. 4 NY 10, LAA 1 Wrap Video
Gm. 5 LAA 7, NYY 6 Wrap Video
Gm. 6 NYY 5, LAA 2 Wrap Video

Still, Los Angeles hopes that Figgins' success at the plate continues as the series progresses on Monday. Prior to Game 2, manager Mike Scioscia said that "it takes that one hit, that one bloop, that good at-bat to get him back on board."

The operative word was "bloop." Figgins' poke into left on Alfredo Aceves' 1-2 delivery was just enough to score Gary Matthews Jr., who exploited the weak throwing arm of Johnny Damon in left in order to score from second on the play. Damon, occasionally replaced in the outfield late in games by Brett Gardner, was still patrolling left because Gardner had already pinch-run for right fielder Nick Swisher.

Even in his earlier at-bats, Figgins looked better at the plate. He worked out a pair of walks around a hit-by-pitch in the fifth from A.J. Burnett.

In the end, though, it wasn't enough.

"It would have been great to get a win out of it," Figgins said. "But we lost."

Tim Britton is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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