ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Twitterverse was panicking and the in-game chat on ESPN Dallas was buzzing about Joe Nathan's blown save Sunday afternoon. Some of you were worried Nathan was beginning to lose his mojo just as the calendar was ready to flip to October.
Don't worry about it, folks. Nathan has been as close to a sure thing this season as a closer can get. He gave up a two-run double to Torii Hunter in the ninth inning of the first game of a doubleheader for his third blow save of the year. The loss left the Rangers needing a win in the nightcap to clinch a playoff berth and head to Oakland one win shy of an AL West title.
They got that big win with Nathan throwing the final pitch. Six hours after he blew the save, he earned his 37th of the season in navigating through the heart of the Angels' lineup.
"I feel OK," said Nathan after two straight outings in the same day, including a 28-pitch appearance in Game 1. "I definitely wanted to get back on the horse. This is a quick turnaround to get back out there but I think any reliever would ask to get out there and try and put this afternoon’s game behind them."
Nathan's velocity was still there and even after the first game, he made it clear that there "are no off days right now" when asked if he could pitch again. Manager Ron Washington wouldn't even rule him out for Monday's game if the Rangers are in position in a close game late to clinch the division.
But don't let Nathan's rare struggle cloud the big picture. The guy is 37-for-40 and in most of those saves, he doesn't even make it interesting. He's got swing-and-miss stuff, a slider that is normally nasty and constantly attacks hitters.
Nathan also has the right attitude for the postseason. He puts rough outings behind him and always wants the ball. And his experience doesn't allow him to get rattled, as Sunday night's save showed. He walked the second batter he faced and got Mark Trumbo and Kendrys Morales as both stood in as the go-ahead runs.
"It was really nice to see Joe come in and get the save," outfielder David Murphy said. "He's been great for us all year."
And he'll be great in the playoffs. Just watch and see.