DETROIT -- The A's and the Tigers played nice for 81/2 innings Monday before a seemingly innocuous foul ball by Detroit designated hitter Victor Martinez resulted in angry words and emptied dugouts at Comerica Park.

Grant Balfour, closing out the A's 6-3 victory in Game 3 of the American League Division Series, was throwing just his third pitch in the bottom of the ninth, a 1-1 fastball that Martinez fouled off. Balfour began walking slowly toward home plate, as he does after most pitches, while Martinez stared toward the mound.

"He gave me the death stare," Balfour said. "He had eyes locked on me like he wanted to come out. So I said, 'Hey, man, you want to stare me down like that and you got a problem then come on out.' "

Home plate umpire Gary Darling stands between Oakland Athletics closing pitcher Grant Balfour (50) and Detroit Tigers’ Victor Martinez (41) during a
Home plate umpire Gary Darling stands between Oakland Athletics closing pitcher Grant Balfour (50) and Detroit Tigers' Victor Martinez (41) during a dispute in the ninth inning of Game 3 of the American League Division Series at Comerica Park in Detroit, Mich., on Monday, Oct. 7, 2013. Walking behind Martinez is A's catcher Derek Norris (36). Oakland defeated Detroit 6-3 and leads the series 2-1. (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News Group) ( JOSE CARLOS FAJARDO )

A shouting match ensued and home-plate umpire Gary Darling inserted himself between the two as players poured out of both dugouts and, eventually, both bullpens.

"I foul a pitch off, and he was looking at me," Martinez said, according to Comcast SportsNet. "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."

It took several minutes to sort out, but no punches were thrown and no ejections were warranted. Martinez flied out to right field on the next pitch, and Balfour eventually secured his first postseason save.


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Tigers outfielder Torii Hunter, Balfour's teammate with the Minnesota Twins from 2001-04, said Martinez might have been confused because Balfour often talks to himself when pitching.

"Balfour's a fiery guy," Hunter said. "Victor Martinez is a fiery guy. He's a competitor, and two guys just got into the heat of the moment."

Balfour's language on the mound is described by his A's teammates as R-rated. Most seemed to agree it was simply a misunderstanding.

"It's just how he fires himself up. He doesn't yell at anybody like that directly," A's outfielder Josh Reddick said. "As far away as I am, on a quiet night in Oakland, I can hear it clear as day. So I can imagine what (Martinez) could have heard."

No one seemed to think the skirmish will carry over to Tuesday, when the A's can secure the series with a victory.

"It's all good. I'm cool with it," Balfour said. "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, so makes for a bit of fun, right?"

Balfour was asked if the two players had any history between them.

"We do now, I guess," he said.