Joe Nathan: Season has been emotional roller-coaster

Tom Gage
The Detroit News

Detroit – — No one has to remind Joe Nathan of what he’s been through this season.

Or of the low points it contained.

But his 35th save on Sunday — his 1-2-3 save to nail down the American League Central for the Tigers — was the farthest thing from a low point he’s experienced as a Tiger.

Indeed, it was Nathan’s time to shine — being the one who was mobbed at the mound at the end of the game.

And the one someone lifted in the air, making it look like he was 8 feet tall.

“I think that was Miggy,” said Nathan, referring to Miguel Cabrera. “It had to be someone strong. I’m not small.”

Of the regular season that concluded with Sunday’s game, Nathan said, “it’s been an emotional roller-coaster for sure — starting with April, and not getting off to the start I wanted to, but having guys who believed in me and stuck by my side and gave me good advice.

“That’s what this game is all about, keeping the negative thoughts out of your head. I still believe in what I have. Fortunately, I’ve been able to be a lot more consistent.”

One of those who remained in Nathan’s corner was fellow reliever Joba Chamberlain.

“Joe is our anchor,” he said. “He was the rock of our bullpen no matter what he was going through. He always held us together and made us a stronger group.

“It’s not how you start, but how you finish, and we’re going to carry this momentum into the playoffs.”

Insurance runs

The Tigers had just four hits Sunday, and one of those was Ian Kinsler’s third-inning home run off losing pitcher Kyle Gibson.

So how did the other two runs score — the ones that stretched the Tigers’ lead from 1-0 to 3-0 in the eighth?

Kinsler singled in Andrew Romine from second after a walk to, and a stolen base by, Romine. The other was on Torii Hunter’s sacrifice fly.

“I just told myself we really need this run as insurance,” Hunter said. “Their pitcher was trying hard not to be clinched on, but I was able to shoot something into the outfield and get that sac fly.

“We had some rough times (as a team) this year and I thank the fans who stuck with us. In a storm, I always say there’s only so much rain, and it has to end. Today it ended.”

Second best

So what kind of season did Rajai Davis have — a question that was able to be asked early on Sunday because Davis knew he wasn’t going to play in the game?

The big surprise was this: With the Tigers seemingly set in center with Austin Jackson for the entire season — before his trade to Seattle, that is — little could Davis had have known that he would end up with the second most plate appearances of his career (494) and his most since 2010 with Oakland.

With 64, Davis was also just two shy of tying the most runs he’s scored in a season. His 130 hits were the second most of his career; his 27 doubles were only one off his career high; his eight home runs tied a career high, his 51 RBIs were one short of tying a career high — and his .721 OPS was the third best of his nine-year career.

So whoever it was who decided to make last winter’s offer to Davis a two-year contract (for $5 million each year) did a good job of foreseeing his value.