CHICAGO -- The surprises just keep coming from Brandon Inge this season.
When he was sent down to Triple-A Toledo in July with just a .177 average, not many people expected him to be recalled anytime soon. Then, just a month later, he gave everyone another surprise when he slugged his second home run of the season in his first game back with the big league club on Aug. 20.
So, maybe the fact that he has provided the Tigers with consistent production during their September surge really shouldn't catch anyone off guard. Inge has said that his time at Toledo reminded him to just go back to the basics and rely on what's carried him through his 11-year career.
"A lot of stuff gets overanalyzed up here in the big leagues," Inge said. "It's the same sport we've played since we were kids. It hasn't changed. The only difference is there's more media, more people watching you and you're under a microscope more, so every little thing gets blown out of proportion. There's no excuse for what I was doing early in the year, but that's behind me now."
Inge wasn't in the starting lineup on Tuesday against the White Sox, but entering that contest he had found his way into 22 of the Tigers' previous 23 games, either as a starter or defensive replacement, since being recalled. Following his three-hit game on Monday, the third baseman was hitting .500 in his 20 at-bats this month. Inge eventually did come in at third base in the sixth inning of Tuesday's 5-0 victory and went 0-for-1 at the plate.
"When he went down like he did, I've always had respect for him, obviously, but to do what he did -- to go down there and grind it out -- he could have just said the heck with it, but he didn't do that," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "He went down to Toledo and worked at it. And now he's come back and this is the best I've seen him swing."
Magglio, Guillen handling limited roles
CHICAGO -- For Carlos Guillen and Magglio Ordonez, it's no secret that the 2011 season hasn't gone the way they would have liked on a personal level.
Both players have nursed injuries and then struggled at times, finding themselves out of manager Jim Leyland's everyday rotation.
Guillen didn't even see his first action of the season until July 16 and then found himself back on the disabled list less than a month later with a bothersome left wrist. Ordonez has also struggled to find a rhythm since missing about a month from May 11-June 13 because of weakness in his surgically repaired right ankle.
Though he came back to hit .294 in the month of July, Ordonez had trouble keeping up that pace in August, hitting just .213 and finding himself splitting starts by the time the month came to an end. He's seemed to step up in his scaled-back role, however, extending his hitting streak to 12 games in Monday night's victory and hitting .450 (9-for-20) this month.
"I feel great. I'm seeing the ball good, I'm feeling good," Ordonez said. "Now, I just look forward to trying to take advantage of every opportunity they give me. I'm ready to play, and the most important thing is that we're winning."
More than Ordonez starting to contribute again with his bat, it's been that type of attitude that has impressed Leyland. Even with Guillen hitting just .205 in his limited time this season and Ordonez hitting at a .245 clip, it hasn't been easy for Leyland to relegate the veterans to situational roles down the stretch.
"I can't tell you enough about -- and I mean this sincerely -- how Magglio Ordonez and Carlos Guillen have handled their situations," Leyland said. "Nobody could have handled it more professionally, and I know it's got to be tough on them and it's one that eats at me sometimes. But I can't tell you how proud I am of those guys. These guys have done a lot for this organization."
Leyland juggling relievers to keep arms fresh
CHICAGO -- Manager Jim Leyland certainly isn't complaining about his team rattling off its longest winning streak since the 1968 season.
After all, the Tigers have taken command of the American League Central, building their largest division lead since holding a 15-game edge in the AL East at the end of the 1984 season. But the Tigers' recent dominance -- outscoring opponents 89-31 in their 11-game winning streak -- has provided Leyland with some difficult decisions regarding the bullpen.
The Tigers' series-opening victory against the White Sox was a perfect example, with the Tigers holding a commanding 14-3 lead by the time Leyland needed to turn to his relievers. Leyland said he could have easily gone with seldom-used Luis Marte to try to finish out the game, but instead decided to go with Daniel Schlereth, Ryan Perry and finally David Pauley.
"The easiest thing to do would have been to put Marte in that game, but I don't think that would have been the smartest thing to do," Leyland said. "Marte probably won't be in big situations these next few days. You want to keep the guys that you think are going to be out there -- and who haven't been out there -- fresh."
That's not to say that Leyland will handle similar situations the same way down the stretch, but for now it's just a matter of striking a balance between getting his relievers some rest while also keeping them ready to face clutch situations.
"You can look at it a lot of ways," he said. "Sometimes you try to get somebody work, but sometimes you just think it's more important to try to keep one guy sharp over another."
Saturday's game may be televised
CHICAGO -- When the Tigers released their TV schedule for this season over the winter, they had 161 games slated to air between Fox Sports Detroit, FOX and ESPN. The lone game not scheduled for broadcast at that point was a Sept. 17 game in Oakland that fell within the FOX national window for exclusive broadcasts.
Few could've imagined then how much might ride on that game now. Depending on how the next few days unfold, it could potentially be a clinching game for the Tigers to wrap up their first division title in 24 years. With those implications now clear, the game could end up on the air after all.
"The possibility still exists," Tigers vice president of communications Ron Colangelo said on Tuesday.
Tim Bryant, director of media relations for Fox Sports Detroit, said basically the same thing.
"Needless to say, it's on the radar of us and the Tigers," Bryant wrote in an email.
The FOX blackout doesn't come up very often with the Tigers, who have had a fair number of Saturday games on the network as a regional broadcast this summer. When FOX has its games on the air Saturday, no other games can be broadcast in that same three-hour window. That's why a lot of teams schedule 1:05 p.m. games when FOX has games slated for 4:05 or, earlier in the year, 7:05. It's also why the Tigers ended up not having a mid-May game in Pittsburgh on the air when the Pirates chose a 7:05 start time.
For this Saturday's visit from the Tigers, the A's chose a day game -- a 1:05 p.m. start local time, or 4:05 p.m. ET. FOX has three games scheduled for regional broadcasts, but Tigers-A's isn't one of them.
To get the game on FOX Sports Detroit, the Tigers and the network would need to get FOX to waive its exclusivity rights. If there's a lot riding on that game, it's a possibility. From a logistics standpoint, that would seem easier than getting a FOX crew in, since FSD will have its crew in town already.
Paul Casella is an associate reporter for MLB.com. Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.