Baseball / Sports

Nathan shakes off rocky outing, loss by slamming door on Tribe to avoid sweep

DETROIT -- It was Sunday afternoon, so Joe Nathan didn't really want to talk about Saturday night.

But the Detroit Tigers had just won, snapping a three-game losing streak out of the All-Star break, and there were more than a few reporters waiting around Nathan's locker to see if he wanted to talk and he didn't have to be on the team bus to the airport until 5 p.m., so why not?

And so Nathan, the latest in a long list of embattled Tigers closers, talked.

He talked for about 10 minutes and he even talked about Saturday, when he didn't talk after taking the loss to the Cleveland Indians.

"Last night was just a matter of pitching around a couple of guys that I didn't want to have beat us," he said. "And I made a mistake to Santana and he put a swing on the ball, got his arms extended and obviously he hit the ball well."

It was a three-run double in the ninth inning, and the Tigers lost, 5-2. Nathan was booed.

"I think the tough part is when things go bad, they're all over you, and then when things go well, they cheer," he said. "And it's like, all right, it sounds like you guys need some talking to because your emotions are going up and down, and we always talk about trying to stay at even keel."

Sunday was a cheery day.

Nathan came into the game in a non-save situation in the ninth inning, retired the three Indians he faced in order--including a swinging strikeout of Chris Dickerson--and was at the center of a sellout crowd's cheer after a 5-1 win at Comerica Park.

"Same thing today," he said. "Just tried to go out and make pitches. Results were better. Nothing tricky about it. The results were just better today."

And despite one of Nathan's sayings--"You can't always pay attention to results, you have to pay attention to how your stuff is"--Sunday's scoreless outing and more outings like that won't hurt Detroit's blood pressure in the ninth inning.

His stuff is good, he said, better than it was at the beginning of the year, after making a mechanical change. Now it's just a matter of getting more and more comfortable with the tweak.

He has noticed a difference with the slider. It's harder. In the zone more. And he has noticed more swings-and-misses. And the 39-year-old has been around this game for a while, so he knows things like trades for closers are being talked about while he struggles with a 6.06 ERA.

"I'm way too old to worry about that stuff," he said. "I've done too much in this game, too much in my career. I don't think it would be fair to myself to beat myself up over that kind of stuff after all of the things that I've gone through in my career to be a part of that."

All he wants to be a part of is winning.

"That's the most important thing," Nathan said. "This isn't about me and where I'm at and what I need to do."

Part of a World Series-winning team, he emphasized, even if it means becoming a smaller part of the bullpen if a trade happens.

"If that's what we need and that's what this club needs to win games, like I said, we're about getting to the playoffs, getting to the postseason and winning the whole thing."

On Sunday, he might have just won some more time.

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