DETROIT -- Grant Balfour's habit of stalking around the mound and screaming when he pitches has been termed the "Balfour rage" in Oakland. While teammates and Balfour say the A's closer is usually trying to fire himself up, it appeared Monday to rub an opponent the wrong way.
Balfour saved the A's 6-3 win in Game 3 of the ALDS with a scoreless ninth that also featured a brief bench-clearing centered around Balfour and Tigers designated hitter Victor Martinez. After Martinez fouled back Balfour's 1-2 pitch, the two stared at each other before exchanging words and starting toward each other, prompting the interlude.
Balfour said he took exception to Martinez giving him "the death stare" after the pitch.
"He had the eyes locked on me like he wanted to come out," Balfour said. "So I said, hey man, you want to stare me down like that and you got a problem, then come on out."
The Detroit Free Press, meanwhile, reported that Martinez said he got upset after Balfour said: "What the (expletive) are you looking at?" Martinez reportedly said he refused to be "intimidated" by Balfour.
Both benches cleared and Balfour and Martinez were separated, though no punches were thrown. Balfour later said he was "kind of confused" by the incident because he hadn't thrown inside to Martinez in the at-bat.
"If I'd ran it in there I understand, but I didn't go in there the whole at-bat," he said. "So I was like, 'Why are you staring me down?'"
Asked if his language might have been more colorful, Balfour said: "Maybe. I don't know if you can read lips."
A's reliever Sean Doolittle said he wasn't entirely surprised by the incident.
"He's always yelling -- whether it's at himself or the hitter or the umpire I never know," Doolittle said. "I don't know what he said, but it very easily could've been something Martinez took the wrong way. The way that he's very vocal, he goes to a totally different place to get himself fired up and ready to go."
Right fielder Josh Reddick said he would describe Balfour's language on a given night to be "not very age-appropriate, I guess," but added that Balfour is normally directing that language at himself.
"We all know the fire that Balfour has," Reddick said. "Some people don't appreciate it and take it the wrong way. But maybe it just got heard wrong or whatever. We know Balf is very mouthy out there and that's the way he's got to pitch."
Doolittle said by the time he reached the field where both teams gathered between the mound and home plate, "I think it had almost died down. ... There were some words exchanged, but it was pretty calm by the time we got out there." Home plate umpire Gary Darling said warnings were issued to both benches "so nothing further escalated."
Balfour retired Martinez on a flyout on the next pitch and said no words were exchanged as Martinez turned back to the Tigers dugout, though Darling appeared to start out as if to separate them again. Asked if he had any prior history with Martinez, Balfour said: "No. We do now, I guess."
"It's all good," Balfour added. "I'm cool with it. I like it. I like a little fire. He's a great competitor, he's a great hitter. I like a little fire and obviously he does too. Makes for a bit of fun, right?"
Catcher Stephen Vogt said he didn't expect any carryover from the incident.
"We're all smart enough not to let anything escalate further than it has to go," Vogt said.
-- Matt Kawahara
PHOTO: Both benches empty as Detroit Tigers batter Victor Martinez and Oakland Athletics closing pitcher Grant Balfour argue during the 9th inning. The Oakland Athletics defeated the Detroit Tigers, 6-3, during Game 3 of the American League Division Series playoffs at Comerica Park in Detroit, Michigan, on Monday, October 7, 2013. Mandi Wright/ Detroit Free Press