Originally posted on Fox Sports Detroit  |  By DAVE HOGG  |  Last updated 10/7/13
DETROIT -- The more Victor Martinez and Grant Balfour tried to explain their screaming match Monday afternoon, the more they sounded like a pair of siblings squabbling on a long road trip. They screamed obscenities at each other and started a mess that ended with the benches and bullpens emptying in the ninth inning of a playoff game ... all because Martinez looked at Balfour. Neither would confirm if Martinez's shadow also touched Balfour's side of the field. Things didn't start after a pitch that hit Martinez or came close to his head, nor was it the aftermath of old problems. Balfour just got angry because Martinez didn't avert his eyes in the proper way. "I hit a foul ball, and I was looking at him, and he said 'What the (heck) are you looking at?'," Martinez said. "I don't know what he wanted. I was looking at him, because I wanted him to throw the next pitch. Where did he want me to look? I don't know what he expected me to do." Balfour didn't disagree about the facts, although he portrayed Martinez's gaze as something much more sinister. "He gave me a death stare, and I asked him what he was looking at," Balfour said after Oakland's 6-3 win. "If he's going to stare me down, come out to the mound. That's all I said." Martinez tried to take Balfour up on his offer, taking a few steps toward the mound, but he was quickly intercepted by A's catcher Derek Norris, home-plate umpire Gary Darling and, eventually, every player in both dugouts and the relievers from the bullpen. When cooler heads finally prevailed, Martinez went back to the plate and lined out. As he turned back from first base to go to Detroit's dugout, he jogged between home plate and the mound. Norris, Darling and Oakland first baseman Daric Barton quickly formed a human barrier between the two players, but Martinez never even looked at Balfour until the reliever started screaming at him again. Martinez stopped and looked over his shoulder, but left the field without further incident. "I've played against the greatest closer in baseball -- Mariano -- and he's never done anything like that," Martinez said. "He starts screaming at me, but I'm not a rookie. I don't take that (crap). I'm a veteran, and I'm a leader on my teams. (Bleep) him. He can't intimidate me." Martinez said he wasn't sure if the incident would fire up the Tigers -- "We'll see tomorrow" -- but his teammates all thought it would be quickly forgotten. "It was nothing," Prince Fielder said. "It didn't matter." Alex Avila agreed, saying that the Tigers had much bigger issues on their minds. "We're down 2-1 in a best-of-5 series," he said. "That's all the motivation anyone in this room needs. We don't need something like that to fire us up when our season is on the line." Martinez vs. Balfour wasn't the first time that the Tigers and A's had gotten into an odd postseason skirmish. In the 1972 ALCS, Oakland shortstop Bert Campaneris was hit by a pitch and responded by throwing his bat at Tigers pitcher Lerrin LaGrow. PERALTA'S RETURN Jhonny Peralta hadn't played at Comerica Park since his 50-game suspension for PEDs, and no one was quite sure what kind of reception he would get from the Detroit fans. Yes, he was an All-Star returning to the lineup, but his absence had hurt Detroit down the stretch and forced the Tigers to trade Avisail Garcia for Jose Iglesias. It didn't take long for the fans to make their feelings known, as Peralta got one of the loudest cheers during pregame introductions, and got a huge ovation after he tracked down an early wind-blown fly ball at the fence in left. "I tried not to worry too much, because I know the fans here, and I know that they support us," he said. "I felt pretty good after I caught that first ball, because the fans were pretty loud." Jim Leyland was clearly concerned about playing Peralta in the outfield -- a position he had never played before the final weekend of the season -- and he probably cost the Tigers a run in the top of the fourth. With one out, Coco Crisp hit a fly to shallow left, but Peralta wasn't able to catch it in the proper position, and Stephen Vogt beat his weak throw to the plate. "I read the ball pretty good, but in the last moment, the ball moved to the left, and I didn't get good balance," he said. "I thought I made a good throw, and Avila said it was right there, but it kind of slowed down when it hit the grass." Peralta, though, made up for it with a two-run single in the bottom of the inning that tied the game at 3. "When I see guys on base like that, I know I can do something big, so I'm excited -- excited in the moment," he said. "I've been pretty good in Detroit with guys on base, and today I got a chance and I got the two RBIs." SEASON ON FISTER'S SHOULDERS The Tigers know they need to score more runs to win the series -- they have two three-run innings and 25 zero-run innings through three games -- but they are also going to need big performances from Doug Fister and, they hope, Max Scherzer in Game 5. Fister talked before the game about the pressure of pitching on Tuesday, knowing that whatever happened in Game 3, someone was going to be facing elimination. "It's a game that I'm honored to pitch," he said. "When your name is called, you are ready to go. I'm not going to change anything. I'm going to have the same mindset that I've had all year. "The biggest thing is to go out there and execute. You make sure you've done your homework and your preparation, and you go out and get the job done." If Fister's previous postseason record is anything to go on, the Tigers have a pretty good job of forcing a fifth game on Thursday. He struggled in long relief in Game 1 of the 2011 ALDS against the Yankees, but he's been lights out ever since. In five starts -- one in each of Detroit's series over the past two seasons -- he's posted a 1.71 ERA as Detroit has gone 4-1. Even in his one loss -- Game 2 of last year's World Series -- he only gave up one run in six innings. "We've just got to go out there and play our game," he said. "That's the only way to do this."
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