Mathis' hot bat earns him Game 6 start
Catcher behind plate rather than Napoli for crucial tilt for Halos
NEW YORK -- Jeff Mathis, who only occasionally this season started back-to-back games, has earned another start in Game 6 of the American League Championship Series with his booming bat as well as his high-caliber work behind the plate.
"Everybody wants to play, and I'm no different," Mathis said. "I was happy to see my name on the lineup card. I come ready to play every day and hope my number is called."
Mathis' offense has been one of the stories of this highly entertaining series. Known for his defensive skills, arm and game-calling abilities, the Floridian had joked earlier in the year that he felt like he was back in high school playing seven innings -- and then departing for a pinch-hitter.
Excluding Alex Rodriguez, there has been no hotter hitter in October than Mathis, who has seven hits in 13 at-bats (.538) with four doubles -- half his season total in 237 at-bats.
Mathis was in the No. 8 spot in manager Mike Scioscia's line against Andy Pettitte. Mike Napoli, who had been handling Game 6 starter Joe Saunders, was on the bench, hoping to make an impact with his bat.
Mathis delivered the walk-off double, his second in as many innings, in Game 3 at Angel Stadium and ignited a decisive three-run seventh inning in Game 5 with a line-drive single.
Mathis is 6-for-10 against the Yankees with four doubles, while Napoli is 1-for-9, a single.
Late in the season and early in the postseason against Boston in the AL Division Series, Mathis had been catching John Lackey with Napoli handling the other three starters: Saunders, Jered Weaver and Scott Kazmir.
"I'm comfortable with Nap and Jeff," Saunders said. "They both know what they're doing back there."
The Angels are carrying a third catcher, Bobby Wilson, which makes Napoli a threat in the right situation.
Scioscia and his staff tossed around a number of possible lineup alterations, including dropping Chone Figgins out of the leadoff spot, but elected to keep the chemistry intact.
Figgins, a .298 hitter with a .395 on-base percentage this season, has scuffled big-time in the postseason with only two hits, four walks and one hit-by-pitch in 36 plate appearances.
But Scioscia retained faith that his catalyst will bust out of it and jump-start the offense against Pettitte.
Erick Aybar, who would have been a candidate to lead off or possibly bat second with Bobby Abreu dropping one slot to third, remained in the No. 9 spot.
Aybar, a switch-hitter with blazing speed, led the team in hitting this season at .312 and is batting .321 in postseason play. He's 5-for-17 (.294) against the Yankees.
"We're going to keep that grouping of Erick, Figgy and Bobby feeding the middle of the order," Scioscia said. "We turned it upside down, and we think that's the best way to go."
Following Figgins, the third baseman, and right fielder Abreu are center fielder Torii Hunter, designated hitter Vladimir Guerrero, first baseman Kendry Morales, second baseman Howard Kendrick, left fielder Juan Rivera, Mathis and Aybar.
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.