DETROIT — Slumping Austin Jackson hit a tiebreaking, two-out, bloop single to right in the seventh inning, and Max Scherzer, making his second relief appearance since his rookie season, got three consecutive outs with the bases loaded Tuesday night to help the Detroit Tigers edge the Oakland Athletics 8-6 and send the American League Division Series back to Oakland for a deciding fifth game Thursday night.
Justin Verlander will start for the Tigers in Game 5. A’s manager Bob Melvin said he was uncertain whether he would use Game 1 starter Bartolo Colon or rookie Sonny Gray, who stymied Detroit for eight innings in Game 2.
The Tigers loaded the bases with two outs in the eighth and plumped their lead from 5-4 to 8-4 on a run-scoring wild pitch and Omar Infante’s two-run double.
Joaquin Benoit pitched the ninth and closed out the game despite giving up a two-run single to Yoenis Cespedes.
Scherzer (2-0) got the win in his first relief appearance since the 2011 ALDS against the New York Yankees. He worked in relief nine times during his rookie season, 2009, with the Arizona Diamondbacks, but all of his subsequent regular-season outings came as a starter.
Oakland loaded the bases to start the eighth against Scherzer on a walk, a double and an intentional walk. Scherzer, working his second inning, fanned Josh Reddick on a 3-2 inside changeup, blew an 0-2, 98 mph fastball by Stephen Vogt, and got pinch hitter Alberto Callaspo to line out to center on a 3-2 pitch to protect a 5-4 lead.
Jackson, who doubled in his first at-bat of the series but was hitless with 10 strikeouts since, hit a single to right to score pinch runner Andy Dirks from second to cap a two-run seventh that gave Detroit its first lead since the series opener.
Victor Martinez homered on losing reliever Sean Doolittle’s second pitch of the seventh, lofting a fly that was touched by a fan before it would have hit the railing atop the fence. The umpires conferred, viewed a replay and affirmed the seventh-inning home run that tied the score, 4-4.
Jhonny Peralta followed with a double, and Dirks ran for him. Doolittle (0-1) retired the next two hitters but walked Jose Iglesias prior to Jackson’s RBI single.
Vogt greeted Scherzer with a ground single to center, went to second on Eric Sogard’s sacrifice and scored on Coco Crisp’s tiebreaking RBI single up the middle.
Peralta hit Detroit’s first home run since Sept. 24, a three-run blow in the fifth that tied the score, 3-3, after Prince Fielder and Martinez singled.
Detroit starter Doug Fister struggled in his six-inning outing, allowing three runs on seven hits with a walk and a strikeout.
Jed Lowrie lofted a home run into the right field entryway one out after Crisp’s one-out single to center in the fifth.
Oakland struck first, in the first, when Crisp tripled on Fister’s second pitch of the game and scored on a one-out single by Lowrie, his first hit of the series.
A’s starter Dan Straily allowed three runs in six innings while striking out eight.
Martinez collected three of the Tigers’ nine hits. Peralta had two hits.
Crisp finished 4-for-5, while Lowrie and Cespedes added two hits apiece.
NOTES: Oakland pitchers held Detroit hitters to three extra-base hits in the first three games of the series, all doubles. The Tigers had four extra-base hits Tuesday. … Detroit broke a seven-game home run drought with the shots by Peralta and Martinez. … Reddick noted teammate 1B Brandon Moss “tries to hit home runs all the time because he says when he tries to hit singles he still strikes out, so he might as well have some fun, try to hit one out of the park.” Moss and Reddick each hit home runs Monday, but they were a combined 1-for-8 Tuesday.