Detroit — A few weeks ago all Joe Nathan heard from the fans at Comerica Park were boos and cat-calls. He heard something completely different Tuesday.
“I think we are making up,” he said after he worked a 1-2-3 ninth to earn his 28th save, preserving a 5-2 win over the Yankees.
As Nathan was preparing to face Carlos Beltran to lead off the inning, fans began chanting, “Let’s go Joe,” and continued it as he struck Beltran out, then got Martin Prado and Stephen Drew to ground out.
“I did hear them,” he said. “Actually for a second I sat there and kind of enjoyed it. Then I told myself, ‘All right, make it some white noise and get back to work.’ ”
Nathan is steadily distancing himself from the chin-flick gesture he gave the fans as he walked off the field on Aug. 13.
“I said it wouldn’t happen overnight,” Nathan said. “But at least I’ve been trying to give the fans a little perspective and kind of show them who I am. I am not an evil person that did what he did a little bit ago.
“But the name of the game is getting the job done. Ultimately that’s what the fans want.”
Nathan has saved four straight and 13 out of 14 since June 21.
“Honestly, I felt I’ve thrown the ball pretty good since some time in June,” he said. “Things have gone a lot more consistently. I don’t know what the numbers tell because I don’t really pay attention to those a lot. But I feel like I’ve been more consistent and the balls coming out of my hand better since then.”
The numbers say it hasn’t always been pretty. Since June 21 he has given up nine runs and 21 hits in 201⁄3 innings. But, he’s only blown the one save.
“You want to throw at a 1-something (ERA) every year but it’s hard to stay at that level,” Nathan said. “I know; I did it for a while. But my job is to get the last out before the other team can tie it. Six times I haven’t done that, but I know it’s getting better.”
Asked how it felt to hear the “Let’s go Joe,” chants, Nathan smiled.
“It’s a good feeling to know we’re on the right track to mending and erasing a mistake I made and hopefully it means we’re putting that thing behind us…It’s a very good feeling.”