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 usually is trying to fire himself up, it irked an opponent in Game 3 of the American League Division Series on Monday.
Balfour saved the A's 6-3 win with a scoreless ninth inning that was highlighted by a brief bench-clearing incident centered around Balfour and Tigers designated hitter Victor Martinez. After Martinez fouled back Balfour's 1-2 pitch, they stared at each other before exchanging colorful words and starting toward each other.
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 reported that Martinez said he got upset after Balfour said: "What the (expletive) are you looking at?" Martinez said he refused to be "intimidated" by Balfour.
Both benches cleared, though Balfour and Martinez were separated and no punches were thrown. Balfour later said he was "kind of confused" by the incident because he hadn't thrown inside to Martinez during the at-bat.
"If I'd run 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 was more colorful, Balfour said: "Maybe. I don't know if you can read lips."
A's reliever Sean Doolittle said he wasn't 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 (Balfour is) very vocal, he goes to a totally different place to get himself fired up and ready to go."
Doolittle said by the time he reached the field, where both teams gathered between the mound and the plate, "I think it had almost died down. There were some words exchanged, but it was pretty calm."
Plate umpire Gary Darling, a Sacramento native, 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 toward 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. 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?"
Call The Bee's Matt Kawahara, (916) 321-1015, and read his online reports at blogs.sacbee.com/bay-area-baseball.