OAKLAND -- Like their noted touchstone symbol, the A's continue to dance in defiance of death.

Just when it appeared the mirrors had cracked and the magic dust was sliding off, the A's summoned another stirring walk-off win Wednesday night at the Coliseum.

A three-run rally in the bottom of the ninth, highlighted by Coco Crisp's line single to right to drive home Seth Smith with the running run, sparked a 4-3 victory over the Detroit Tigers in Game 4 of the American League Division Series.

Yes, they can do the "Bernie Lean.''

And, yes, they did give Crisp a face full of hero cream pie afterward.

This game had all the earmarks of one that was destined for the loss column. The A's, having achieved so much more than most could have imagined, were three outs away entering their winter, having learned some harsh lessons in physics and economics, as taught by the Tigers.

It's really not all that complex. The team with the bigger bats and stronger arms -- as well as the costlier investments -- usually wins.

Not in Oakland, not on this night, not when these A's still have three outs. Throughout this remarkable -- no, incredible -- season they've practically trademarked the comeback victory.

"What it's done is given us a sense that we're never out of it,'' manager Bob Melvin said.

This team does not care that the Tigers have a slugging first baseman of massive stature and a salary equal to nearly half their payroll. With a 10-year contract worth $214 million, Prince Fielder is, and should be, appreciably better than anyone the A's run out there. His home run, a bolt over the right-field fence, gave Detroit an early 1-0 lead.

And, yes, once the Tigers tacked on a couple more runs, it looked as if they might be enough. No. 4 starter Max Scherzer, once an Arizona Diamondbacks prospect who could throw 100 mph, was dealing. Now a 28-year-old fourth starter who this season won 16 games and led the league in strikeouts per inning by relying heavily on a fastball in the mid-90s, Scherzer struck out eight while working into the sixth.

Surely the end of the road loomed for Oakland, one of the unlikeliest playoff teams in history, with its low-budget payroll and busload of rookies. And it would not have been a sad ending.

But there is no end, not yet for a team that believes it can, and will, win any game. And that it does not matter how they have looked up until the moment the game is on the line.

They entered this game with a .198 batting average in this series. Against Scherzer and the first four Detroit relievers, the A's managed but four hits. When Tigers closer Jose Valverde took the mound, the A's jumped him.

A single by Josh Reddick, followed by a double by Josh Donaldson, followed by a two-run, game-tying double by DH Seth Smith. Three batters later, with two out, Smith came around on Crisp's single.

This is how the A's got to the ALDS -- not by blowing pitchers off the mound but by stringing together clutch hits, often from unsuspected performers.

These A's were not good enough, not deep enough, to constantly pressure opponents. So when a potential rally is snuffed out, it cuts like a switchblade.

That's what happened with none out in the sixth, when Stephen Drew lined a ringing double to right-center, scoring Coco Crisp. With third-base coach Mike Gallego urging him on, Drew tried to stretch the hit into a triple. Bad move. Awful move -- so awful it potentially could have cost the A's the game, as Drew was an easy out at third.

They survived that mental error only to run into the law of averages. With two out and runners on first and third, up came Cliff Pennington, representing the go-ahead run. He's an earnest little player who got some big hits this season, but the hard fact is he spent most of the summer trying to keep his batting average above the .200 mark.

He is not the guy you want up, no matter how loud the crowd rooted, standing and chanting, "Let's Go Oakland.'' He struck out swinging, the eighth and final strikeout of the evening for Scherzer, who was removed with two out in the sixth.

Tell me again, how did the '12 A's get into the postseason despite having so many holes in their lineup?

They got here because they ignore their deficiencies. They ignore the numbers. All they ask is that they get one more chance to win a game.

One more chance to do the "Bernie Lean,'' lifted from the 1980s movie "Weekend With Bernie,'' during which the lead character is dead but somehow keeps dancing.

They did that Wednesday night. Don't be surprised if they do it again Thursday night, when everything is at stake in the deciding Game 5.

Contact Monte Poole at mpoole@bayareanewsgroup.com. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/1montepoole.