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July 29, 2010 at 4:08 PM

Chone Figgins as surprised as anybody that his home run left the yard

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Chone Figgins hasn’t surprised too many people on a positive front with his play so far this year. But on Wednesday, he turned back the clock a little with a home run from the right side off Mark Buehrle of the White Sox. It was his first homer of the year and first as a right-handed batter since July 7, 2006.
Figgins didn’t even see the ball go out. He hit the ball so cleanly, he barely felt it leave his bat and then just took off running.
“I heard Buehrle say ‘Dang it!’ and I was like ‘Dang! Did I get it?’,” Figgins said. “And I look up as I hit second base and everybody was just standing there and I was like ‘Well, maybe I did get it.’ It was just one of those freak things.”
The Mariners didn’t get up to congratulate him right way. That’s the kind of gag players usualy play on each other when they do something completely unexpected.
“Yeah, I got the silent treatment,” he said. “I wish I could get the silent treatment more often.”
Figgins was laughing when he said the latter part. It seemed to be a joking reference to his verbal clash with Don Wakamatsu in the dugout last Friday.
Figgins still isn’t talking about that incident.
It’s been a while since Figgins has had this much impact on the scoreboard. It can be argued that he directly caused four runs to be scored by the Mariners. Two came on the home run and two more when he broke for home after Russell Branyan got caught in a rundown. Figgins beat the throw, which wound up sailing wide of the catcher, allowing Branyan to move all the way to third base and then barely beat an ensuing sacrifice fly.
Figgins read that play very well. Had White Sox first baseman Paul Konerko stopped in his tracks, looked Figgins back to third base, then made a throw to second as Branyan headed for that base, then Figgins might not have broken for home.
But instead, Konerko started chasing Branyan up the basepath, allowing Figgins to inch closer to home. The moment Konerko finally threw over to shortstop Alexei Ramirez, who was covering second, Figgins had his opening and sprinted to the plate.
“It was a real heads-up play by Figgy,” Wakamatsu said this afternoon.
Figgins was credited with a steal of home, something he’d never done before.

Figgins, as I said earlier, hasn’t been surprising people too much with his all-around play this year. He’s been in the news for a lot of negative reasons.
He said he isn’t much of a home run hitter, obviously, but if he was trying to, he’d probably attempt it from the right side because that’s how he swings naturally. But he hits more often from the left side because most pitchers are right handed.
I asked Figgins whether he was hitting the ball as far this season as in prior years. I saw a spray chart or two posted online in recent weeks — I think on Lookout Landing — that suggested he hasn’t been hitting balls for distance as well this season.
“My swing is to center field,” Figgins said. “I hit balls up the middle so I hit balls well to center, but I have to get them down to get hits. I can’t miss that far in center field. In the off-season, I’m trying to get to where I’m driving the ball, low liners. That way if I do hit one over the shortstop or second it does go in the gap for a triple or a hustle double. I wouldn’t say it’s any different than any other year. Some years I do hit for a little more extra base hits and some years I don’t, depending on how it’s going in the season.
“Right now, the last month and a half, I’m trying to be more consistent with my swing and get on top of the ball. Because that’s usually my trouble, getting on top of the ball. Especially being a switch-hitter. It’s tough to balance both sides. I think right handed this year i’ve done a good job of getting on top of the ball as opposed to left handed.”
Still, Figgins said he wouldn’t consider switching sides against certain pitchers just to boost his number of right handed at-bats.
“I think I faced (Tim) Wakefield one time in Boston right handed because of the short porch (in left field),” he said. “But then, in Anaheim, I always faced him left handed.”
Figgins said he did get a hit from the right side. But no, it’s not something he’s going to do with other pitchers.
As we mentioned on Twitter, Casey Kotchman is playing first base today. He hasn’t played in a while and Wakamatsu doesn’t want to push Russell Branyan too much after his base running adventures last night. Branyan is coming off those back woes and the team wanted to give him a precautionary off-day.
Jose Lopez is still out and might not play until Saturday in Minneapolis at the earliest.
Shawn Kelley has a simulated game tomorrow and then could go out on a rehabilitation assignment.
And Luke French will be the starter on Sunday in Minnesota. He could still pitch a couple of innings tomorrow in lieu of a regular side session if needed out of the bullpen.
The lineups:
RF Ichiro
2B Chone Figgins
1B Casey Kotchman
CF Franklin Gutierrez
LF Michael Saunders
DH Justin Smoak
3B Josh Wilson
C Rob Johnson
SS Jack Wilson
RHP David Pauley
LF Juan Pierre
3B Omar Vizquel
CF Alex Rios
DH Paul Konerko
RF Carlos Quentin
1B Mark Kotsay
SS Alexei Ramirez
C Ramon Castro
2B Gordon Beckham
RHP Freddy Garcia

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