DETROIT – Seeing fiery Oakland A’s closer Grant Balfour get into a near fight is not all that surprising.
Seeing it happen in the bottom of the ninth of a postseason game? Not so predictable.
Balfour added some spice to the A’s 6-3 victory over the Detroit Tigers on Monday in Game 3 of the American League Division Series.
Tigers designated hitter Victor Martinez fouled off a seemingly harmless 1-2 pitch. Then Balfour began yelling at Martinez, or was it Martinez jawing at Balfour? Both men blamed the other. At any rate, both benches cleared. Relievers spilled out of both bullpens and ran in from left field.
It all amounted to nothing but a bunch of yelling and accusations, but it sure added intrigue to what was a three-run game. And the fact it happened after a foul ball, and not an inside pitch of any sort, made it more bizarre.
“He gave me the death stare,” Balfour told a mob of reporters surrounding his locker after the game. “He had the eyes locked on me like he wanted to come out, so I said ‘Hey man, if you wanna stare me down and you’ve got a problem with it, then come on out.’”
If that’s what Balfour said, it likely wasn’t so G-rated. The Aussie is known for screaming profanities at himself to get his adrenaline going when he’s on the mound. Was he perhaps cussing at himself and Martinez misinterpreted things?
Balfour doesn’t think so. He was asked if he had any prior bad blood with Martinez.
“No,” he replied. “We do now, I guess.” Martinez had a slightly different version of events.
“I foul a pitch off, and he was looking at me,” Martinez said. “I looked at him, and he told me, ‘What the (bleep) are you looking at?’ (Bleep) him. I don’t take that (bleep). Not even if you’re the greatest closer in history can you talk like that. I’m not a rookie to be intimidated with (stuff) like that. I don’t take (bleep) like that.”
Almost lost in all the chaos: There was an at-bat to finish. With the count 1-2, Martinez lined out to right field on the next pitch. He glanced back toward Balfour as he trotted past the mound toward the third-base dugout, but things didn’t escalate.
In Game 2, Tigers right fielder Torii Hunter pointed toward A’s pitcher Sonny Gray after a high and inside pitch. Whether the tension lingers in Game 4 remains to be seen.
Balfour’s teammates seemed amused by the whole incident afterward.
“He’s always yelling, whether at himself or at the umpire, I never know,” A’s reliever Sean Doolittle said of his teammate. “He’s very vocal. He goes to a totally different place to get himself fired up. It’s only a matter of time before somebody takes it the wrong way and says something back to him.”