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A's use long ball to push Tigers to brink

Oct 7, 2013; Detroit, MI, USA; Oakland Athletics designated hitter Seth Smith (15) hits a two-run home run in the fifth inning against the D
Oct 7, 2013; Detroit, MI, USA; Oakland Athletics designated hitter Seth Smith (15) hits a two-run home run in the fifth inning against the D

(Reuters) - The visiting Oakland Athletics flexed their muscles and powered their way past the Detroit Tigers 6-3 on Monday to take a 2-1 lead in their best-of-five American League Division Series.

Home runs by Josh Reddick, Brandon Moss and Seth Smith moved Oakland within one victory of reaching the League Championship Series for the first time since 2006.

The Tigers erased a 3-0 deficit with three runs in the fourth inning off A's starter Jarrod Parker on an RBI-double from Victor Martinez and a two-run single by Jhonny Peralta.

The outburst snapped a 20-inning scoring drought for Detroit but the Tigers quickly found themselves trailing again as the A's reestablished a three-run cushion in the next inning on homers from Moss and Smith.

An outburst of another order livened up the ninth inning when Oakland closer Grant Balfour and Detroit designated hitter Victor Martinez exchanged expletives and approached each other threateningly as both benches emptied onto the diamond.

Balfour, who often talks to himself in animated fashion to pump himself up, shouted a curse at Martinez during his lead-off at-bat and Martinez cursed back and the two kept jawing before teammates rushed in and blocked their path.

Balfour eventually retired Martinez on a fly to right on his way to closing out the ninth to register the save for winning pitcher Jarrod Parker.

"He was staring me down, so I said, 'why are you staring me down, what is your problem? You got a problem, come out here,'" Balfour said during an on-field interview.

"So he came out and we had a couple of words. Whatever, no big deal. I'm up for it, whatever you want to bring on."

Oakland's long-ball display came against Tigers starter Anibal Sanchez, who led the American League in earned run average with a 2.57 mark during the regular season.

Game Four is scheduled for Tuesday in Detroit, with Doug Fister (14-9, 3.67 ERA) expected to start for the Tigers against rookie Dan Straily (10-8, 3.96).

"We're smelling it now," said Balfour. "We want to wrap it up tomorrow.

"I'm sure they're going to be fired up, and we are too."

(Reporting by Larry Fine in New York; Editing by Frank Pingue)

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