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Core Tigers have a hand in Game 3 win

Core Tigers have a hand in Game 3 win

Core Tigers have a hand in Game 3 win
DETROIT -- For the last month-plus, it seems that every move Tigers manager Jim Leyland makes pays dividends, and Monday's 5-2 win over the Yankees in Game 3 of the American League Division Series was no different.

Leyland put infielder Ramon Santiago in the No. 2 spot in the lineup and the much-maligned Brandon Inge at third base, and the two combined to go 4-for-8 with two doubles, two runs scored and two RBIs.

"Even in September, skip was on fire," utility man Don Kelly said. "I joked the other day, I don't know if a guy who pinch-hit got out. Obviously, that's not the case, but he's been doing unbelievable with that. Guys just know their roles and they step up when they get in there, and that's all you can ask for."

Santiago entered the day 7-for-24 off Yankees starter CC Sabathia in his career, and Leyland wanted to take advantage of the numbers. Santiago also hit .297 in the No. 2 spot in 26 games during the regular season.

"Santiago had a great night, of course," Leyland said. "He had done decent against CC, obviously hitting [.292] against him. That's why we put him in there. He responded very well with a couple of big hits, no question about it."

Santiago continued what was a hot end to the regular season. From Aug. 14 on, he hit .294 (32-for-109) with four home runs and 19 RBIs, always seeming to come through with the big hit. Through three games, it's been a much different postseason for him than 2006, when he went 1-for-12 (.083) over six games.

In Game 2, Santiago went 0-for-2 with two sacrifice bunts. But on Monday, he was able to swing away and directly help the Tigers on the scoreboard with two RBIs in what was one of the highlights of his career.

"It's one of the best," Santiago said about where the night ranked for him. "I put it on top of the list."

Santiago's first hit came in the third inning after he was unable to lay down a bunt in an attempt to advance runners to second and third. After fouling off two pitches, Santiago singled to left field, scoring Inge for the Tigers' first run of the game. Santiago scored Inge again with a one-out double in the fifth inning to break a 2-2 tie and give the Tigers the lead.

For Inge, Monday brought the season full circle. After hitting below .200 for most of 2011, he was designated for assignment on July 20 but eventually recalled one month later.

"For me, especially because of this year and what I've gone through personally, this is special to me," Inge said before the game. "I get to ... I don't know, I'm not done yet, so it's one of those things where I'm like, 'You try to knock me off, but I'm not finished yet.'"

Since coming back to Detroit, Inge has been used primarily against left-handed pitching and as a defensive replacement. Against the left-handed Sabathia, Inge came through with a double and single in his first two at-bats.

"That got us going," Leyland said of Inge. "Ingie came up with a big hit there. That really did get us going."

It was a bit of redemption for Inge, who said before the game that he wanted to make sure he took in every moment after everything he's been through this season -- which also included a stint on the disabled list due to an illness that never seemed to go away.

"There's not a much better feeling," Inge said of his performance on Monday night. "I just go out there and play as hard as I can. I love playing baseball, especially here in Detroit, especially in October. I'm very happy to be able to play."

Inge and Santiago are the only remnants of the 2003 Tigers team that lost an American League-record 119 games. Now in their second postseason with the Tigers, their roles have changed, but the goal has remained the same.

"We just try to be resilient," Inge said. "Just make sure what's needed of us, we're there and we play for the team. It's not like we're being selfish in any way. When the team needs a hit, try to get a hit for them."

Chris Vannini is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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