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Hero Mathis sits in favor of Napoli

Hero Mathis sits in favor of Napoli

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ANAHEIM -- For Tuesday evening's Game 4 of the American League Championship Series, Angels manager Mike Scioscia lifted Howard Kendrick one spot into the No. 6 hole in the lineup and elected to go with Mike Napoli behind the plate rather than Game 3 standout Jeff Mathis.

With Kendrick moving up against CC Sabathia, Kendry Morales dropped one spot to No. 7. Morales' right side has been the weaker of the two for the switch-hitting slugger, but it was more a matter of what Kendrick -- who came within a double of a cycle in Game 3 -- has done against Sabathia.

"What Howie has done, especially against Sabathia, gives us a little more depth in the middle," Scioscia said. "If it had been a right-handed pitcher, Kendry would be hitting fifth."

A .667 career hitter (8-for-12) against the Yankees' ace in the regular season, Kendrick had one of the Angels' four hits against Sabathia in three at-bats in the southpaw's Game 1 gem at Yankee Stadium.

Kendrick got the Angels' offense started with his fifth-inning homer in Game 3 against Andy Pettitte. He tripled against Joba Chamberlain and scored a go-ahead run on Maicer Izturis' sacrifice fly, and he singled and scored the winning run on Mathis' walk-off double in the 11th against Alfredo Aceves.

In spite of all that, Kendrick would have been on the bench if Yankees manager Joe Girardi had started a right-hander in Game 4.

"Izzy would have been in there," Scioscia said. "He's been getting some big hits, too."

Izturis, who faced right-handers in a platoon with Kendrick across the second half of the regular season, has a little more range and experience defensively than Kendrick, Scioscia added.

As for starting Napoli, Scioscia is going with a more potent offensive threat than Mathis, even though the latter has been hotter in the postseason.

While Napoli is 1-for-10 (.100), that hit a double, Mathis is 4-for-9 (.444) with a .778 slugging percentage built on three doubles.

Napoli has caught all but one of Game 4 starter Scott Kazmir's starts since the lefty arrived from Tampa Bay on Aug. 28.

AL Championship Series
Gm. 1 NYY 4, LAA 1 Wrap Video
Gm. 2 NYY 4, LAA 3 Wrap Video
Gm. 3 LAA 5, NYY 4 Wrap Video
Gm. 4 NY 10, LAA 1 Wrap Video
Gm. 5 LAA 7, NYY 6 Wrap Video
Gm. 6 NYY 5, LAA 2 Wrap Video

"I don't know if it's tough," Scioscia said when asked about the decision to go with Napoli. "It gives us a lot more depth and confidence when you have Jeff contributing offensively like that.

"There's a comfort level there with Nap [and Kazmir]. Nap has the ability to get hot at the plate, and we'll give him some swings."

While Mathis hit .211 this season with a .308 slugging and .288 on-base percentages; Napoli hit .272 with .492 slugging and .350 on-base marks.

Apart from the Kendrick-Morales flip-flop, the Angels' lineup remained essentially intact.

Third baseman Chone Figgins, right fielder Bobby Abreu and center fielder Torii Hunter form the top third, followed by designated hitter Vladimir Guerrero, left fielder Juan Rivera and second baseman Kendrick in the middle, then first baseman Morales, Napoli and shortstop Erick Aybar.

In Game 1 against Sabathia, Guerrero's double and an RBI single by Morales produced the only run in a 4-1 loss.

Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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