DETROIT — Joe Nathan wants the ball. And manager Brad Ausmus intends to give it to him.
"If we have a save situation tonight, Joe’s going to be the guy," Ausmus said before Wednesday’s game.
That’s exactly what Nathan wants after giving up a career high-tying four runs in the ninth inning to the Toronto Blue Jays in Tuesday’s 5-3 loss.
"I’ve had way too many days — I had four days off before (Tuesday)," Nathan said. "I was already itching to get in the game. I already told Brad Iâm not taking any more days off that he tells me. The days off will come when they do."
After a career year in 2013 with Texas in which he was 6-2 with a 1.39 ERA and 43 saves in 46 chances, Nathan is 2-2 with a 6.86 ERA and 13 saves in 17 chances.
"As a closer, you have to have a special makeup mentally because if you don’t do your job, there’s more than a good chance that your team lost," Ausmus said. "It’s a special breed to be a closer and Joe’s done it for a long time. Really, whether it’s physical or mental, long-term I expect him to be fine."
Lost in the way the Tigers lost Tuesday night’s game in the ninth inning was the performance of starter Anibal Sanchez.
Sanchez made his fourth start since coming off the disabled list with a blister.
All Sanchez did was shut down one of the hottest teams in baseball in the Toronto Blue Jays, a team that has a major league-leading 83 home runs.
"I know it was going to be a hard day for us, especially because Toronto is playing really good," Sanchez said after the game. "I tried to keep my command in every at-bat. I don’t try to miss any ball. I saw a lot of video of that team. Every mistake by the other pitcher, they pay for it. They’re really aggressive with the swing and I need to control that during the whole game, make good pitch, think a lot between pitch, do my adjustment in every at-bat for them."
Sanchez allowed just two hits in seven innings, striking out five.
"There’s not much to dislike about Sanchez," Ausmus said. "He’s pitched very well since he’s come back from the DL. Really it’s all of his pitches, he’s commanding his fastball, he’s got a lot of weapons so there’s not much you can say negative about Sanchez."
Edwin Encarnacion, who won AL Player of the Month honors for hitting 16 home runs, 22 extra-base hits and driving in 33 runs in May, managed a double off of Sanchez.
"This guy had a monster May," Sanchez said. "I saw the numbers and everything. I just tried to keep my ball off the plate. I tried to go up and down, side by side, in and out, I tried to make adjustments in every at-bat. So I don’t try to throw the same way because they got the out in the first at-bat. I just tried to keep my ball off the plate for this guy, especially, because he’s got a lot of power."
Unfortunately for Sanchez, his teammates couldn’t get him any runs.
In his last outing, Sanchez kept another hot team, the Oakland A’s, down, allowing just three hits in 8 1/3 innings but Nathan blew the save and the Tigers lost, 3-1.
Sanchez said he’s not frustrated by the lack of run support.
"It’s more for the team," Sanchez said. "If I pitch good, if I pitch, the result is for the team. We lost. That’s the bad thing. I go to the mound and I try to do my best. I try to face the hitters, go deep, help the team gain some wins but the result is not like that today."
Sanchez is 2-2 with a 2.15 ERA and 0.89 WHIP. He has not allowed more than three earned runs in his nine starts.
OFF THE SCHNEID
It didn’t matter in the ultimate outcome, but J.D. Martinez’s three-run home run in the bottom of the ninth off Toronto’s Steve Delabar snapped a 19 2/3 inning scoreless streak for the Tigers.
It was the team’s longest scoreless streak since going without a run for 18 innings from April 17-19, 2013.