DETROIT — On a night of desperation, dispute and, finally, delirium, Max Scherzer and the Detroit Tigers kept their season alive by the slimmest of margins.
A tying home run, helped along by a couple of fans in right field.
A full-count pitch with the bases loaded that was low and inside but became strike three when the batter swung.
A line drive down the line with the bases still full — foul by a few feet.
During a relief outing to remember, Scherzer escaped a major jam one inning after two fans reached out to try to reel in Victor Martinez’s disputed home run, and the Tigers rallied past the Oakland Athletics 8-6 on Tuesday to force a decisive fifth game in their AL Division Series.
Scherzer was in line to start Game 5, but the 21-game winner came on Tuesday instead for his first relief appearance since the 2011 postseason. He wriggled out of a bases-loaded, none-out jam in the eighth inning and got the win.
“We took our best shot and we had to because we were behind the 8-ball a little bit,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. “We took that shot and, hey, both teams are going to have a good pitcher going two days from now.”
After avoiding elimination, the Tigers can now send Justin Verlander to the mound Thursday night in Oakland. Verlander shut out the A’s at the Coliseum in Game 5 of the division series last year.
Oakland hasn’t announced a starter for Thursday. It is Bartolo Colon’s turn in the postseason rotation, but rookie Sonny Gray could also come back on normal rest after a brilliant performance in Game 2.
“We haven’t decided anything yet,” manager Bob Melvin said.
Playing catch-up most of the way in Game 4, the Tigers tied it first with Jhonny Peralta’s three-run homer in the fifth and then on Martinez’s solo shot in the seventh. A couple of fans attempted to catch Martinez’s drive, and at least one of them bobbled the ball as he reached over the railing above the wall.