DETROIT — In a lineup that manager Jim Leyland shuffles almost daily, hoping to stack the deck in the Tigers' favor, Delmon Young has turned out to be the wild card.
Acquired in a surprise deal with AL Central rival Minnesota in mid-August, Young hit .274 with eight homers and 32 RBI in 40 games with Detroit to close the regular season.
On Monday, his tie-breaking home run in the bottom of the seventh that gave the Tigers a 5-4 win in Game 3 was his second of the ALDS.
"You have to give Dave the credit," Leyland said, referring to president-general manager Dave Dombrowski. "He claimed him and we ended up being able to trade for him.
"Delmon was one of the guys that were huge down the stretch for Minnesota last year. We knew that. At pressure time last year he did well for the Twins. [He was] one of the big RBI guys down the stretch. We thought he would be a nice addition."
Young hit .298 and produced a whopping 112 RBIs for the Twins a year ago, yet after an oblique muscle strain and an ankle injury put him on the disabled list twice early this season, the stumbling Twins were willing to let him go in exchange for two Detroit minor leaguers, Cole Nelson and Lester Oliveros.
With the Tigers, Young has settled into the No. 3 spot in the batting order, just ahead of cleanup hitter Miguel Cabrera, meaning he's seeing plenty of good pitches from hurlers who don't want to walk the man ahead of the MVP candidate.
And Young, who was traded by Tampa Bay to Minnesota after a 93-RBI season in 2007, knows what to do when he sees a good one.
"The total year has been up and down," Young said. "But ever since I came to Detroit it has been a lot of positives. I've enjoyed the time with all the guys over here and winning ballgames."
PEP RALLY: Quote-unquote Leyland, a Perrysburg High product, when commenting on closer Jose Valverde's alleged "guarantee" that the Tigers would sweep both ALDS games at Comerica Park:
"That's blown over … that stuff is high school stuff. We're talking about the New York Yankees and Detroit Tigers. We're not talking about some pep rally in Maumee and Perrysburg."
A FUN JOB: Since returning from a demotion to Triple-A Toledo, which included a 16-game stretch that saw him hit .361 with four home runs and 16 RBIs, Tiger veteran Brandon Inge has regained his touch at the plate.
He hit .320 in September and had three hits during the first three games of the ALDS.
"I think he quit putting pressure on himself," Leyland said of the 34-year-old Inge, who is the Tigers' longest tenured player. "To be honest with you, I think he realized it's just a game. It is what it is. I think he's turned it into more of a fun thing than a job thing.
"And I just think — I don't know — he might be saying, ‘I played a long time, I might be getting close, I don't know how many more years I can play, [so] I'm going to enjoy this.' I think that's what he's doing."
TIGER LINEUP: Inge took a seat for Game 4 last night with Wilson Betemit getting the start at third base. Magglio Ordonez was not in the lineup either as Leyland opted to start Don Kelly in right field and put him sixth in the batting order.
"We tried to mix a little more speed in that spot," Leyland said of Kelly. "We feel confident he can get a hit, even [an] extra base hit. And [he] also can go first to third, possibly steal a base."
QUIET BATS: The fourth and fifth hitters in the Yankees' lineup, Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira, were a combined 1-for-21 during the first three games of the series. Rodriguez was 0-for-10.
"I think the big thing is when you see the zero and you see the name, I think people make a lot of it," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said of A-Rod, the game's highest-paid player. "He had an RBI and two walks [in Monday's Game 3]. He was on base and that's what you want guys to do, get on."
THE ALLIES: The Tigers are bidding for the World Series, the Lions are 4-0, and Michigan's Wolverines are off to a 5-0 start. Leyland and Lions coach Jim Schwartz communicate occasionally and the Tigers' skipper recently attended a UM game.
"We're all allies," Leyland said. "We're pulling for one another. It's a good atmosphere for the city. It makes people forget about their troubles with good times in sports. If you can make somebody happy, well, that's what the song says. We're all trying to make someone happy."