Detroit Tigers closer Joe Nathan has had a rough first season with the team and the frustration is starting to show. After pitching a scoreless ninth inning against Pittsburgh on Wednesday, the right-hander walked off the mound and gave a chin-flick gesture to the home crowd.
Nathan apologized for the incident, telling reporters, via Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press that "frustration got the better of me." Matthew B. Mowery of The Oakland Press posted a video of Nathan's apology on Twitter:
Jason Schmehl of MLive.com noted on Thursday that Tigers manager Brad Ausmus hadn't talked with Nathan about the incident yet but did have an interesting take on it:
Brad Ausmus has not talked to Joe Nathan as of yet. Wouldn't comment on gesture, but said, "You don't want to deal with these side issues."— James Schmehl (@jamesschmehl) August 14, 2014
Even though Nathan didn't give up a run against the Pirates, he was far from flawless. He walked the first two hitters of the inning before getting Jayson Nix to line out and Josh Harrison to ground into a game-ending double play.
On the season, Nathan has a 5.11 ERA, 1.57 WHIP and 1.96 strikeout-to-walk ratio. All three numbers would be career-worst totals for him in a season with more than 40 appearances if they hold.
It's not the first time this season Nathan has been at the center of a controversy. During a May game against Oakland that ended with a Josh Donaldson walk-off against Nathan following an error by Nick Castellanos on a ball hit by John Jaso, the 39-year-old seemingly sold out his third baseman, via Chris Iott of MLive.com:
When I guess we didn't get Jaso, it puts you in a tough spot. First and third. Real good hitter at the plate. It kind of forces me to go after one of the better hitters in the lineup. Like I said, Jaso was the out that we thought we had, but unfortunately it didn't happen.
Making matters worse is the Tigers' slide in August. Despite acquiring David Price at the trade deadline, Detroit has fallen behind the Kansas City Royals in the American League Central.
Nathan's performance has been horrid for the Tigers, who seemingly can't buy help in the bullpen no matter how hard they try. He was coming off two seasons in Texas with a 2.09 ERA and 151 strikeouts in 129 innings.
This latest incident could be a sign that tensions are boiling over in Detroit. The Tigers have owned the Central division for the last three years and have World Series aspirations, but instead find themselves locked in a battle for a playoff spot.
As the regular season winds down and the playoff hunt heats up, it will be interesting to see how Nathan performs down the stretch.
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