Nathan picks up emotional save Saturday

Joe Nathan has saved 366 games in his career, but none of them might have been more emotional than Saturday night against Seattle.

Joe Nathan was greeted with a mixture of cheers and boos when he was introduced at the start of the ninth inning Saturday.

Rick Osentoski

DETROIT -- Joe Nathan has saved 366 games in his career, but none of them might have been more emotional than Saturday night against Seattle.

Pitching for the first time since Wednesday's profane gesture directed at the Comerica Park fans that had booed him, Nathan had a shaky ninth inning, but picked up his 25th save despite allowing a run.

"I still feel absolutely terrible about what I did on Wednesday," said Nathan, who had delivered a dismissive chin-flick to the crowd after getting the final out against Pittsburgh. "I apologized on Thursday, but I'm apologizing now, because I want the fans in Detroit to understand that I am truly sorry. I've never been involved in any controversy in my career -- not once -- and I'm so disappointed that I let my frustration get the best of me."

Nathan was greeted with a mixture of cheers and boos when he was introduced at the start of the ninth inning, but Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said it was past time to get his closer into another game.

"He was going to have to pitch here again eventually, and there was no sense trying to keep delaying it," said Ausmus, who had hoped to get him back on the mound as soon as Thursday. "It was good to get him out there, and it was good that he got through it relatively unscathed."

The 39-year-old's reception turned entirely to boos when Robinson Cano started the inning with a single, and things didn't get much better when he misplayed Kendry Morales' grounder, turning what should have been a double play into a single out at first. 

"I was nervous going out there, and even though Cano hit a pretty good pitch, I can't kick the double-play ball to the next batter," he said. "At that point, I just needed to calm myself down."

Endy Chavez followed with an RBI single, cutting the deficit to 4-2, but Nathan got Kyle Seager to hit into a game-ending double play.

"I was happy that I got that double play, because I wanted to get the game over with as quickly as possibly for the fans," he said, managing one of his first smiles in days. "I knew they wanted to see the fireworks and still get out of here before all the traffic from the One Direction concert next door, so I was trying to hurry things up."

Nathan knows that his performances this season are the reason that he isn't getting a warm reception from Tigers fans. He has posted a 5.20 ERA this season, his worst since 2000 -- his last season as a starter for the Giants -- and he's matched his career high of six blown saves.

He accepts that, and doesn't blame the fans for being upset, but does want them to understand that he isn't losing games due to a lack of effort.

"I think some times that fans feel like I get here at 9:30 at night, pitch the ninth and then go home without caring about what happened," he said. "That's not at all how I do things. I work hard every day to be the best closer that I can be, and it eats me up inside when I have a bad game. I just hope the fans understand that. This isn't something I take lightly."

At the end of the day, though, Nathan just hopes that the fans that have sold out Comerica Park for every game in this week's homestand will eventually think of him as a quality closer, and not for Wednesday's gesture.

"I don't want to be remembered, after all of my career, for three seconds of stupidity," he said. "That's why I'm going to keep apologizing to the fans until they realize I mean it, and I'm going to do everything I can to pitch the way they expect me to pitch."