DETROIT – The Oakland Athletics have beaten Detroit with both pitching and power. And that’s left the Tigers on the brink of elimination — and simmering with frustration.
Brandon Moss, Josh Reddick and Seth Smith homered for the Athletics, who chased Anibal Sanchez in the fifth inning Monday and defeated the Tigers 6-3 for a 2-1 AL division series lead.
Moss broke a 3-all tie in the fifth with a solo shot, and Smith’s two-run drive later in the inning ended Sanchez’s day. It was an impressive offensive show after the teams split two taut, low-scoring games in Oakland.
This one got a little tense in the ninth, too, when A’s closer Grant Balfour and Detroit hitter Victor Martinez started shouting at each other after a foul ball, causing benches and bullpens to empty.
“I don’t know what happened. Honestly, I know that Balfour is fiery on the mound — he’s yelling a lot and spitting everywhere,” Moss said. “It’s who he is. You know, sometimes it can ruffle the feathers of other teams.”
The A’s aren’t worried about making friends, especially after losing to the Tigers in a five-game division series last year. Oakland can close out this series Tuesday and reach the AL championship series for the first time since 2006 — when the Athletics were swept by the Tigers.
Oakland will send rookie Dan Straily to the mound against Detroit’s Doug Fister.
“There’s no tricks. We’ve got to win the game tomorrow to try to extend it to Game 5. It’s that simple,” Tigers Manager Jim Leyland said. “We ran into another situation where we didn’t put enough runs on the board and an excellent starting pitcher didn’t have a very good day.”
Sanchez, the American League’s ERA leader, allowed six runs — five earned — and eight hits in 41/3 innings. Smith has homered off Sanchez more than any other player, having now done it twice in the regular season and twice in the playoffs.
There was activity in the Detroit bullpen before Smith’s homer Monday, and he made the Tigers pay for sticking with the struggling Sanchez.
“Sometimes he starts out a little slow, you figure he’s going to get it going,” Leyland said. “Today he just really didn’t get it going. He made a couple of real bad pitches the last inning he was out there to Moss and Smith.”
Jarrod Parker gave up three runs in five innings for Oakland, and the Tigers couldn’t rally against the bullpen.
Balfour pitched a hitless ninth for the save. Martinez had just hit a foul ball when he started looking back at Balfour, who yelled something at the designated hitter.
Martinez started slowly toward the mound, and players from both teams came running out. The situation eventually calmed and no players were ejected.
“I said, ‘Why you staring me down like that?’ ” Balfour said. “He was staring me down. He knew what he was doing.”
Martinez said Balfour threw in a profanity when he yelled toward the plate. “I’m not a rookie. I’m a veteran, and I’m a leader on my teams. I don’t take that,” Martinez said. “He can’t intimidate me.”
When he was with Tampa Bay, Balfour was involved in a testy exchange with Chicago’s Orlando Cabrera in a division series game against the White Sox in 2008.
There also was some mild bad blood between the Tigers and A’s last year, when Detroit reliever Al Alburquerque kissed the ball after fielding a comebacker and Oakland took exception.