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LAND -- Somewhere in the middle of the champagne-soaked scrum that the Tigers' clubhouse became following their Game 5 win on Thursday, there was Omar Infante. It was hard to notice him amidst all the bigger frames, brighter faces and louder voices. You just knew he was there.
That's the kind of American League Division Series Omar Infante had. Not until the deciding game, when he took it to the A's pitching and defense with two line-drive singles, a walk and three solid baserunning plays, did his contribution become apparent.
Yet in the end, nobody in Detroit's star-studded lineup had more base hits. For that matter, nobody in Oakland's lineup did, either. Infante's 6-for-17 performance ranked as the best in a pitching-dominated series, but the second baseman's overall play resonated well beyond that.
"He was excellent," Prince Fielder said. "I mean, great defense, he hit well, he did a great job."
As a result, the Tigers -- the team that traded him away five years ago, only to bring him back this summer -- are going back to the AL Championship Series.
"Today we were tight," Infante said. "We were a little nervous, but we know we have a good team. The team never gives up. That's why we win."
The same could be said of Infante.
Lost in the roar of the A's ninth-inning rally on Wednesday night in Game 4, Infante came deceptively close to two highlight stops that might have stemmed the tide. Josh Reddick's leadoff single rolled just under Infante's glove as he made a diving attempt in the hole. Coco Crisp's game-winning grounder through the hole between second and first was just too hard for Infante to run down.
Infante dusted himself off, got back up for Game 5 and delivered.
His leadoff single in the third inning set up Detroit's first run, scoring him easily on Austin Jackson's double into the left-center-field gap. It was part of a two-run rally that benefited from two Jarrod Parker wild pitches.
When Infante walked on four pitches in the fifth inning, he set up a scoring chance by stealing second base, one of three Tigers steals to tie a team postseason record.
Infante's seventh-inning single not only put runners at the corners, it chased Parker from the game. When Jackson followed with a single to right field, Infante challenged Reddick, going from first and third, nearly sliding past third base in the process.
"We were very aggressive, because that's what we needed," Infante said. "They have good pitching. We have to continue play aggressive. That's why we win."
With Infante on third, A's reliever Ryan Cook ended up walking Quintin Berry and loading the bases. Once Cook hit Miguel Cabrera with an 0-2 pitch, Infante strolled home with his easiest run as a Tiger.
The Tigers scored 17 runs in the series. Infante scored six of them. Of all the Tigers' position players, he arguably had the most productive series.
"And a productive season for us," general manager Dave Dombrowski said in the midst of the Tigers' celebration. "He's been a huge addition for us, because he's really steadied second base. He's played well defensively. We know he had a tough time in the beginning, but he's really settled in. He's made good plays at second base, and he's also mixed in his hits and runs a little bit. He adds that extra dimension for our ballclub."