Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Chone Figgins - Asskicker

It's not very often that you see a guy raise his batting average thirty points in one game in June. But that's what Chone Figgins did tonight, all while pulling John Lackey and Hector Carrasco's asses out of the fire. Both pitchers were awful, but Figgins capped off a six for six night by driving in the tying run on a two out infield single in the 8th inning and a two out game winning double in the bottom of the tenth inning, making a winner out of Frankie Rodriguez.

Lackey was less than good for the second straight start, blowing a 4-1 lead, and exiting the game with two runners on base and trailing 6-4, all five runs coming with two outs. He simply didn't have it from the get go, and while he battled for a few innings, he succumbed in the fifth, walking Carlos Lee to load the bases, and throwing three ball fastball after fastball to Mark Loretta, who finally bounced one over the left-center field wall for a two run ground rule double. But Lackey didn't accept the good break, and promptly delivered a textbook gopher ball to Mark Lamb. A hit batter and some choice words for the umpire is all Lackey could muster before finally getting the hook.

Hector Carrasco got out of the fifth, and delivered a 1-2-3 sixth before falling apart in the seventh, the coup de grace coming on error in a run down that not only allowed the 8th run to score, but allowed the eventual ninth run to reach third, where a sac fly would chase him home.

Then the monkey paid a long overdue visit. Singles from Vlad and HGHMJ, followed by a walk to Kendrick loaded the bases. Hillenbrand, who conveniently waited until the game was tied to deliver his usual suck (in his defense, he had three hits and two RBIs in what was a pretty good game for him) drove in two with a single. Mike Napoli busted down the line to avoid a double play, a huge effort that paid dividends. Erick Aybar knocked one into right to score Kendrick and move Napoli to third, from where he would score on a Reggie Willits sac fly. With Aybar on third, Figgins delivered his fifth hit of the night, a bouncer to first that he legged out for the game tying RBI.

Anxious moments plagued the 8th and 9th innings, but Scot Shields and Frankie Rodriguez made big pitches when they needed to, none more important than Frankie's slider to Craig Biggio that ended the ninth inning, which looked to me like one of the best he's thrown since 2002.

With two outs in the ninth, Reggie Willits became the ninth Angel starter to reach base via a hit, and set the stage for Chone Figgins' heroics. On a 1-1 pitch, with Willits drawing all kinds of attention from Astros reliever Trever Miller, Figgins laced a liner down the right field line, hit almost as hard as two liners that he had caught earlier in the game. It dropped a few feet to the happy side of the foul line, found its way to the corner, and Willits came home with the winning run.

The Angels should not have won this game. They got seven innings of lousy pitching, 4.2 from a guy who may have just cancelled his trip to San Francisco in mid-July. Only three of their 19 hits went for extra bases (Figgins was officially credited with a triple on the last hit), and none left the yard. But they scratched a victory worthy of their magical 2002 season. Championship teams win games during the season that they have no business winning, and this was one of those for the Angels. And almost all of the credit goes to Figgins. Really an amazing game, and an amazing turnaround from a guy that people wanted to run out of town about a month ago.

Less than stellar of late, Bartolo Colon takes the mound tomorrow to take a shot at wrapping up another series win.

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