DETROIT -- An evening of gambles paid off for the Detroit Tigers.
Two players taking on unfamiliar roles, shortstop Jhonny Peralta playing left field and starter Max Scherzer working in relief, made key contributions for Detroit in an 8-6 victory over the Athletics on Tuesday that sent the American League Division Series back to Oakland for a deciding fifth game Thursday night.
Peralta's three-run home run in the fifth stunned the A's, wiping out a 3-0 Oakland lead and leading to an awakening of Detroit's sleeping offense.
Slumping Austin Jackson hit a tiebreaking two-out, bloop single to right in the seventh, and Scherzer, making only his second relief appearance since his rookie season, got three consecutive outs with the bases loaded in the eighth.
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.
"I was really thrilled," Detroit manager Jim Leyland said of Peralta pumping up an offense that scored in only two of 27 innings entering Tuesday. "We need another over-the-fence bat in the lineup.
"I certainly don't want to sound like I'm smart, but that's what happened. It's huge."
It was Peralta's fifth career start in left, all since his return from a 50-game suspension for his part in the Biogenesis scandal.
"We were pumped up," Jackson said of the home run by Peralta, who also drove in two of Detroit's runs Monday in a 6-3 loss. "It seemed like we fed off that energy."
Scherzer (2-0) worked in relief nine times in 2009 as a rookie with the Arizona Diamondbacks, but the only time since was an ALDS outing against the New York Yankees in 2011.
"Bases loaded, no outs, one-run lead, eighth inning. That's what you dream of," said Scherzer, who loaded the bases but got two strikeouts and a lineout to center to preserve a 5-4 lead.
"Max is a strikeout guy," Leyland said. "If you can get the first two guys on strikes, that's huge. You take your shot."
Melvin said, "That was the key. Bases loaded and nobody out. Two good changeups (for strikeouts), and (Alberto) Callaspo hit a bullet."
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. They needed the extra cushion because closer Joaquin Benoit gave up a two-run single to Yoenis Cespedes in the ninth before closing out the win.
Jackson doubled in his first at-bat of Game 1 but then went hitless with 10 strikeouts until his RBI single to right scored pinch runner Andy Dirks from second to cap a two-run seventh. The rally gave Detroit its first lead since the series opener.
Victor Martinez homered on the second pitch from Sean Doolittle (0-1) in the seventh. The fly ball was touched by a fan before it would have hit the railing atop the fence. The umpires conferred, viewed a replay and affirmed the home run that tied the score, 4-4.
"As far as with Doolittle," Melvin said, "Martinez just hit the ball out of the ballpark. Ahead of Jackson (in the count), he makes a good pitch, gets a bloop. After that, we weren't very good in our bullpen.
"Early on we were pitching well again. After they scored the three runs, after Daniel (Straily) came out, we had our best reliever in there (Doolittle)."
Detroit starter Doug Fister struggled in his six-inning outing, allowing three runs on seven hits with a walk and a strikeout. Oakland got six innings of four-hit ball from Straily, who gave up Peralta's home run.
Coco Crisp made one of his four hits an RBI single off Scherzer in the seventh.
Martinez had three of the Tigers' nine hits.
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.