By: Jeff Riger
Brad Ausmus called Wednesday “the worst day” of his short managerial career…
His team lost, he used poor judgment with a joke to the media, and Detroit was a full game and a half out of first place in the AL central. It seemed like things might be getting a little too much for the skipper.
On Thursday, Ausmus apologized once again for the comments and tried to convince the media that he wasn’t cracking and he’s not overwhelmed. I believed him, but I’m not so sure many others do.
And, then came the game where the Tigers edged out the Royals 2-1. They avoided a 4 game sweep; they got good starting pitching, just enough hitting and finally something truly good happened for the manager.
Nathan was called upon in a one run game and did the job for the first time in what seemed forever. Ausmus had the choice to go with Joba Chamberlain instead. The former Yankee could have pitched the 9th after getting a crucial double play in the 8th, but the manager didn’t even think about it.
“I was going to send Joe out there for the 9th” Ausmus said. “We need Joe Nathan to pitch in close games for us to win. We needed to get him back on track and I hope this is the start of that track.”
And, at least for a day it seemed to be…
Nathan faced the heart of the Kansas City lineup in the 9th inning with a one run lead and struck out “Tiger killer” Billy Butler looking and then got Salvador Perez and Lorenzo Cain swinging.
It was just what the doctor ordered!
Nathan has been a train wreck leading up to Thursday’s performance. He walked way too many people, gave up way too many hits and even threw other players under the bus when things didn’t go his way. It was ugly. I for one thought he was done and what we were witnessing was the unwatchable finish to a brilliant career.
But Thursday made me believe otherwise.
Nathan has made an adjustment. He claims his arm slot got out of whack. “We found an arm slot that worked” Nathan said. “I get more whip on my pitches now. From what everybody was telling me it was coming out a lot harder, a lot crisper.”
Nathan worked ahead in counts and was able to end at-bats when he needed to. He was dominant at least for a day. He even hit 94 mph on his fastball.
So if he did it once against a good team, there is no reason to believe he can’t do it again. Right?
Detroit has a lot of flaws. Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer have faltered, they haven’t scored anywhere close to enough runs and the bullpen is statistically the worst in the game. The problems have been obvious and the 10-20 record after being 27-12 is glaring.
However, if Nathan can duplicate what he did on Thursday, that would be a huge step for a team that has given their fans very little to cheer about lately.
One game doesn’t make a turnaround. One 1,2,3 inning doesn’t change a season. But if Joe Nathan is indeed back to being Joe Nathan. If the arm slot adjustment truly cured him? Then at least fans can go back to once again dreaming about winning the AL Central, something that is not even remotely possible without their closer.
Thursday provided a nice moment for Tiger fans. There is a lot more to prove before people will start to believe again; but you have to start somewhere.
Nathan started it, now let’s see if others can follow suit?