There is a certain moxie that comes with being a closer in Major League Baseball.
The closer is tasked with preserving the team’s lead — a precious and sometimes fleeting position — during the last crucial moments of a game. And those final three outs, commonly thought of as the toughest outs in a whole game, are charged with anxious energy. The game’s outcome is on the line, the crowd is amped, and the batters grow more discerning with every pitch.
The closer is the last line of defense on the battleground each team navigates on its way to a win. If successful, they have quite literally saved the day.
Tigers closer Joe Nathan recorded his 368th career save on Saturday, his 27th of this season. His save, which came in an 8-6 win over the Twins, moved him into seventh place on MLB’s all-time career saves list.
Topping the list is Mariano Rivera, who over his 19-year career amassed 652 saves and is widely regarded as the best closer in MLB history. Nathan’s 368th save allowed him to surpass Jeff Reardon, and put him just 22 saves below Dennis Eckersley, who currently sits in the sixth-place spot with 390 career saves. Nathan is the only active player within the list’s top 10.
Tuesday night against New York, Nathan pitched a perfect ninth inning to preserve the 5-2 win over the Yankees and bring home his 369th career save (28th of the season), all while the crowd at Comerica Park chanted his name.
To date, Nathan has saved 369 of 413 opportunities (.893), giving him the most successful save percentage among any other player in the top 10.
The 39-year-old reliever is currently in his 14th year in the MLB, and signed with Detroit in last year’s offseason. Although he has had a rocky first year with his new team, he has amassed 28 saves this season, which puts him on pace with his numbers from past seasons. Over the last nine seasons, he has averaged 37.8 saves per season, notching a career-high 47 saves in 2009 while with Minnesota.
However embattled a season Nathan may be having this year, his career record suggests he’s a closer worth sticking with.