Angels 10, Astros 9
ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP)—Chone Figgins had the game of his life, three weeks after struggling through the worst slump of his career.
The diminutive third baseman finished 6-for-6 with a double and four singles to go with his 40th career triple and first this season. He drove in three runs and matched Garret Anderson’s 1996 franchise record for hits in a game, helping the Angels rally from a 9-4 deficit and maintain their six-game lead in the AL West.
Figgins, whose 186 hits last season broke Johnny Ray’s 1988 club record for switch-hitters, started slowly at the plate this year. But he is 36-for-79 (.456) over his last 17 games, raising his batting average to .284.
“This is one of those special games,” Figgins said. “You can’t explain it. You just stay within yourself. The thing about it was that the game was close, so it made you concentrate even more to get a hit. I don’t think I ever did that in a video game, much less in a professional game.”
Dave Borkowski (1-1) retired his first two batters in the ninth before giving up a single to Reggie Willits. Trever Miller came on and Figgins lined the left-hander’s 1-1 pitch the other way to right field as Willits scampered home without a throw.
“I was trying to catch Reggie. That way, at least I’d know he would score,” Figgins said with a laugh.
Figgins became the first major league player to get six hits since Seattle’s Raul Ibanez on Sept. 22, 2004, at Anaheim, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Ibanez was 6-for-6 as well.
“He’s got good stuff and he’s one of the elite closers in the game,” Biggio said. “He threw me a couple of fastballs, I fell behind 2-0, then he made a quality pitch on another fastball that I fouled off. Then he threw me that breaking ball and I just couldn’t stay back on it long enough to put it in play.”
Houston right-hander Chris Sampson gave up hits to 11 of his first 21 batters and 14 hits overall through six-plus innings, including singles by Vladimir Guerrero and Gary Matthews Jr. to open the Angels’ five-run seventh.
“It feels good that the manager has that much confidence in me to let me stay out there,” Sampson said. “It was just one of those nights where the balls were finding holes. I didn’t have my slider until about the fifth inning, and I couldn’t find the command for my curveball. So basically, all I had was a sinker.”
Shea Hillenbrand had a two-run single in the seventh against Chad Qualls, Erick Aybar added an RBI single and Willits followed with a sacrifice fly. Figgins then hit a high chopper toward first base and won a race to the bag after Qualls took Lamb’s short toss. Aybar scored to make it 9-all.
“That was probably the best hit I’ve had all year,” Figgins said. “I don’t really get too many like that.”
Mike Napoli’s two RBI singles snapped an 0-for-15 drought and helped the Angels build a 4-1 lead. But the Astros pulled ahead 6-4 in the fifth with five runs, the first two coming on Loretta’s ground-rule double with the bases loaded, and the next three on Lamb’s sixth homer.
Lackey, who was born 409 miles from Houston in Abilene, Texas, faced the Astros for the first time in his career and allowed six runs and eight hits over 4 2-3 innings—his shortest start this season. The right-hander walked four and struck out four while his ERA increased from 2.53 to 2.96.
“We were able to flip it on them and get a big five-spot. Then, all of a sudden, they came back with five of their own,” Biggio said. “Tonight was just one of those crazy games, a very disappointing game, but you’ve got to put it behind you.”
Lamb, making his second straight start at first base while Lance Berkman served as the DH, is 13-for-20 over his last five games—including a grand slam in Sunday’s 10-3 win against Seattle.
Don Sutton, who played for the Angels and Astros during his 23-year Hall of Fame career, earned his 300th victory 21 years ago Monday with a 5-1 victory over the Texas Rangers in Anaheim. … The only other time these teams played each other in the regular season was June 18-20, 2004, when the Astros took two of three at Houston. SS Adam Everett, who missed that series because of an injured left hamstring, also is out for this series with a broken right leg following a collision with Carlos Lee last Thursday.