Figgins returns to starting lineup
Third baseman back from knee infection; several starters sit
LOS ANGELES -- The Angels had their catalyst back at the top of the batting order for Sunday's Interleague series finale against the Dodgers, but Chone Figgins' return wasn't the only alteration on manager Mike Scioscia's lineup card.
Garret Anderson and Torii Hunter were given a day off, with Juan Rivera in left field and Gary Matthews Jr. in center against sinkerballer Derek Lowe. Second baseman Howie Kendrick also was given a day off, versatile Maicer Izturis moving in at second and batted fifth, where he flourished last season.
With Guerrero bumped up to No. 3 in the order, Casey Kotchman was in the cleanup role for the 10th time this season. Mike Napoli, who homered and doubled in one of his two previous starts on the road trip, was behind the plate with Jeff Mathis getting the day off.
Figgins, held out of the lineup for the first two games with a left knee infection, is a difference-maker. The Angels average 5.3 runs when he's in the lineup, 3.4 runs when he's absent.
In making the moves, Scioscia said he looked at past performance indicators and matchups. He's hoping to shake loose some runs from an offense that has been shut out across 18 innings by the Dodgers at Dodger Stadium. The frustration continued in Saturday night's strange 1-0 loss, in which Jered Weaver and Jose Arredondo combined to hold the Dodgers hitless for eight innings.
"You can look at some matchup numbers," Scioscia said. "If there's no real statistical data, you look at what a pitcher does on the mound to match up with the guys who are going to play. There are some numbers there with Rivera, Izturis."
For Rivera, the club's second best run producer in 2006 before a broken leg essentially wiped out his '07 season, this was his seventh appearance of the month and his fifth start of the season in the outfield. He has been the designated hitter seven times.
When he's on, Lowe gets a lot of rollover groundouts with his sinker.
"If you try to pull him, you're in trouble," Scioscia said. "He runs that sinker under the hands, and it's tough to go the other way. He's multidimensional. He changes speeds off that sinker and relies on his defense. You have to show some patience."
Rivera is hitting .444 in nine career at-bats against Lowe with a homer. Izturis, who came from the Expos with Rivera in a deal for Jose Guillen after the 2004 season, is a .500 hitter against Lowe in 10 at-bats.
Kotchman (6-for-10, .600) and Figgins (6-for-20, .300) have fared well against the Dodgers' right-hander, and so has Napoli. The big receiver is 2-for-5 against Lowe with a homer.
Anderson, hitting .267 on the road trip, is a .205 career hitter against Lowe in 44 at-bats, while Hunter has fared better (.273, two homers in 22 at-bats). Hunter, hitless in his last nine at-bats, is batting .276 on the trip.
Kendrick, who had two of the Angels' five hits Saturday night (double, single) and was robbed of extra bases by right fielder Andre Ethier, is hitting .313 on the road trip.
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.