Figgins made his first start of the season in right field on Sunday and threw out a runner at home plate before Darin Erstad’s go-ahead RBI double in the eighth inning lifted the Angels to a 3-2 victory over the Detroit Tigers.
“He’s arguably right up there with Vladimir Guerrero and Jose Guillen as our MVP, just because of his versatility,” winning pitcher Scot Shields said. “He’s helped me out a couple of times this year on tough plays.”
Figgins hadn’t played in the majors on a full-time basis until this season— and only because of injuries to third baseman Troy Glaus and center fielder Garret Anderson. Now they can’t get him out of the lineup because of his offense, defense and speed on the bases. He’s played six positions this year, including left field, shortstop and second base.
“I think you’d have to give him consideration to be our MVP, just for that reason,” manager Mike Scioscia said. “Not only is he playing everywhere, he’s doing everything we’ve asked of him. Figgy loves to play the game. He’s fearless and nothing intimidates him.”
Guerrero, who has 10 outfield assists this season, got the day off. Figgins started in his place and did his best impersonation of Guerrero—throwing out Craig Monroe trying to score on a single by Brandon Inge in the fourth to temporarily keep the Angels ahead 2-1.
“The ball kind of got tied up in my glove, but I still figured I had a chance because he hit it hard, and Monroe’s not really a fast runner,” Figgins said. “So I just wanted to make a good throw and have a good chance to get him out at home plate. If I’m on the field, I’m comfortable no matter where I’m at.”
Shields (6-2) pitched two innings of one-hit relief for the victory, allowing an unearned run. Troy Percival pitched a hitless ninth for his 23rd save in 28 attempts.
David Eckstein drew a two-out walk in the eighth, then stole second without a throw when Gold Glove catcher Ivan Rodriguez couldn’t handle a sinker by Jason Johnson that broke sharply at the last instant. Erstad got his clutch hit on a 1-2 pitch down the line past first baseman Carlos Pena.
Johnson (8-11) allowed three runs and six hits in eight innings, striking out three and walking three. The complete game was his second this season and fifth in 158 career starts.
Anderson committed his second error of the campaign, helping set up the tying run in the seventh after Shields inherited a 2-1 lead from Aaron Sele.
Anderson misplayed Nook Logan’s leadoff single into two bases, nonchalantly trying to backhand the ball instead of getting in front of it as it bounced toward him. Logan advanced to third on Omar Infante’s bunt and scored on Carlos Guillen’s dribbler to third base with the infield in.
Detroit’s other run also was unearned, the result of Eckstein’s throwing error to first base on Rondell White’s grounder to short in the second. White reached after Eckstein pulled Erstad off the bag with a hurried throw, then came around on Pena’s double to center.
Angels second baseman Adam Kennedy, back in the lineup after a couple of days off, kept Detroit from scoring in the fifth when he made a diving stop on Dmitri Young’s grounder in the hole with two men on and threw him out to end the inning.
“It’s hard to cheat in the hole against a good hitter like him, so was I just trying to play him honest and I got a decent jump on the ball,” Kennedy said. “The way Johnson was pitching for them, you had the feeling it was going to be a one-run game, so it was nice to be able to contribute like that.”
The Angels scored a pair of first-inning runs with the help of Johnson’ throwing error. Eckstein walked and Jeff DaVanon hit a one-out liner that Johnson knocked down with his pitching hand before throwing it past first base and down the right-field line. Eckstein scored, and DaVanon continued to third before Anderson singled him home.
“It got me pretty good around the wrist, but it didn’t hurt at all,” Johnson said. “If I would have taken my time and gotten my feet underneath me, I would have gotten him out. But I pulled across my body trying to throw it over there and threw it into right field.”
Sele, coming off his first loss in eight decisions this season, allowed an unearned run and six hits in six innings.
The win pulled Anaheim within a percentage point of Boston and Texas in the AL wild-card race. … The Angels entered Sunday with 65 errors, third-fewest in the AL. … Guerrero is 1-for-12 lifetime against Johnson. … Johnson’s error was the third by a Detroit pitcher in this series. Jeremy Bonderman committed two Friday night. … Anderson, last year’s All-Star home run derby champ, has gone 121 consecutive at-bats without one and has just one homer in his last 40 games.