Joe Nathan #36 of the Texas Rangers. (Photo by Rick Yeatts/Getty Images)
No, this isn't about everyone's favorite 2 AM song from the 90’s. This has to do more with around 10-10:30 PM at a major league ballpark.
That’s usually the time Joe Nathan gets the call from the bullpen. Other than having one of the coolest entrances music-wise (Stand Up by Steel Dragon), Nathan is as "automatic" as it gets when it comes to closers in the game.
Nathan is 27 for 28 in save opportunities for the Rangers, his 27 saves rank third in the American League. The other numbers are just as impressive: 1-0 with a 1.47 ERA and 37 strikeouts in 36.2 innings pitched. This is coming from someone who is 38 years old and a couple of years removed from Tommy John surgery.
The nice recovery allows him not just to continue to come in with the lead in the ninth, but manager Ron Washington has at times also brought him in for holds during a tie game in a ninth. The move faltered a couple of times earlier last season, sparking plenty of debates. It’s seemed to work so far this season.
The secret to success may be the mechanics. Nathan's motion is simple, starting with his left shoulder practically facing the plate. This helps with not just a smooth delivery, but makes it harder for the hitter to pick up the ball prior to release, eliminating any chance to really tip-off pitches. And speaking of pitches, Nathan has a mixture of four to go to. His four-seam fastball usually registers in the mid-to-upper 90s, mixed in with a slider and curve. The slider is probably the "K" pitch, moving it around the zone. It's nasty once he has a two-strike count. Nathan's fourth pitch is a two-seam fastball usually thrown against lefties in the lineup.
With each save, Nathan moves up the all-time list in the category. His 325 career saves ranks him 14th on that list. He racked up a majority of those saves as a member of the Minnesota Twins (He’s the Twins all-time saves leader), but isn’t skipping a beat with the Rangers.
"Closing Time," "Game Over," it really doesn't matter what moniker you use. The bottom line is Nathan gets it done.