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Lowell Cohn: Tigers' Victor Martinez lost battle with A's Grant Balfour

  • Home plate umpire Gary Darling, center, stands between Detroit Tigers designated hitter Victor Martinez, left, and Oakland Athletics relief pitcher Grant Balfour during the ninth inning of Game 3 of the ALDS on Monday. (PAUL SANCYA/Associated Press)

DETROIT – If I were a fully-formed adult, I'd start with a poetic paragraph about the A's 6-3 victory over the Tigers. I'd explain how the A's now lead the series 2-1 and can close out Detroit in Game 4.

But I am not a fully-formed adult, so I'm going to start with the fight. The fight had all the fireworks and, frankly, the fight's the thing for me. I bet you feel the same.

Here's your scene-setter. The A's were leading 6-3 in the bottom of the ninth, the Tigers' last licks. Grant Balfour, the A's closer from Australia, was pitching to Detroit's designated hitter, Victor Martinez, known as a mild-mannered man, a perfect gentleman who rarely gets upset even with umpires.

Oakland A's vs. Detroit Tigers ALDS Game 3

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After fouling off a pitch, Martinez, for no apparent reason, abandoned home plate and rushed toward Balfour. Balfour rushed toward Martinez. Balfour and Martinez shouted at each other. Neck veins popped. The benches emptied. The bullpens emptied.

What in the world just happened? Let's slow it down. Martinez stared at Balfour, full pupil, the whites bulging. Later, Balfour, laughing near his locker, called it the “Death Stare.”

“What the @#%& you staring at?” Balfour yelled at Martinez.

“I was a little confused at that point,” Balfour said. “Every time I make a pitch, I walk down the mound. It's what I do. He had his eyes locked on me like he wanted to come out. So I said, 'Hey, man, you want to stare me down like that. Come on out. I don't really care.' So he came out.”

Note: We know Balfour didn't quite say it like that. He definitely used the word @#%&, but he was cleaning up his language for the press.

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