Jun 19, 2014; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers relief pitcher Joe Nathan (36) celebrate the last out of the game against the Kansas City Royals at Comerica Park. Detroit won 2-1. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Will The Real Joe Nathan Please Stand Up?

The Detroit Tigers topped the Kansas City Royals 2-1 in Comerica Park Thursday afternoon behind a commanding ninth inning from Tigers closer, Joe Nathan. The Tigers victory ended a 10-game winning streak for the Royals and helped Detroit from falling into a four game slide themselves.

It was an all to familiar scene — Nathan taking the mound with the game on the line. With his team in need of a victory and the crowd waiting anxiously, Nathan struck out the final three batters.

“The most encouraging thing was the way Joe threw at the end. That kind of looked like Joe Nathan from a year ago.”-Tigers manager, Brad Ausmus

The win was huge for Detroit, but the fact that it came behind the promising play of Nathan made the win feel even better.

Even Kansas City Royals designated hitter, Billy Butler was impressed with the showing by Nathan.

That looked like the Joe Nathan I’ve faced for years, all those times with the Twins and then with Texas,” Butler said. “The one with a few hundred saves and all those All-Star games. He’s had some tough moments in his career, but that looked like the same guy.”

Ausmus and Nathan both discussed a recent adjustment in Nathan’s arm slot for the impressive turnaround. Nathan lowered his arm slot a bit — moving his arm away from his body slightly. It seemed to work well when put to the test today.

“The ball was coming out of his hands great today,” catcher Bryan Holaday said. “He was really free and easy, smooth delivery and then the ball was just exploding out of his hand.”

J.D. Martinez‘s homer in the fourth was the tie-breaker and the eventual game winning score for the Tigers.

Anibal Sanchez (4-2) allowed five hits and a walk in seven innings, keeping the Kansas City offense quiet even though he failed to strike out a batter. Joba Chamberlain pitched the eighth, and Nathan finished for his 14th save in 18 chances.

While the win was big for the slumping Tigers, the fact remains that Detroit began the series in first place, and ended it in second. The Tigers are 10-20 in their last 30 games.

If Nathan’s performance can start the turnaround in the Tigers bullpen, then perhaps the team can return to its early season form that had the Motor City buzzing.

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