Gardy listens to Nathan
He wanted to start 12th, Twins manager says
By Murray Chass
New York Times News Service
NEW YORK -- Joe Nathan, the Minnesota Twins' closer, said it before he lost Game 2 to the Yankees Wednesday night, and he said it after.
"Even after the game," manager Ron Gardenhire related, "he said: 'I wanted it. It was my job there."'
Working in a third inning of relief, which had not been in his job description in his first 74 appearances this year, Nathan squandered a 6-5 Twins lead, giving up two runs in the 12th inning that produced a 7-6 victory for the Yankees and a 1-1 tie in their division series.
The Twins were oh so close to going home needing only one victory in two games there, but Nathan couldn't hold the lead. In his first year as a closer, he had recorded 44 saves during the season and one more in the series opener. But this one was beyond his grasp.
"We were stretching him a little bit, putting him in there for the third inning," Gardenhire said. "He hadn't gone more than two innings. But the guy wanted the ball. We asked him and he said he was OK"
Had Torii Hunter not hit a home run off Tanyon Sturtze in the Twins' half of the 12th, Nathan would not have pitched a third inning, Gardenhire said.
"If the game is tied, he was going to be out, and we were going to have to bring in the kid," he explained. "But once we take the lead, he wanted the ball."
Gardenhire didn't have to acquiesce to his closer, but he didn't really have much choice, either at the start of the inning or when the inning got hot for the Twins.
"Our options? We had kids out there," Gardenhire said. "It's tough to bring in kids to face those guys in the lineup. You're looking at Rodriguez and Sheffield. I find it really hard to go get a kid and bring him in."
The kid Gardenhire referred to was Jesse Crain, a 23-year-old in his third professional season.
Gardenhire also could have called on J.C. Romero, a more experienced reliever, but Romero is left-handed (the Yankees' hitters were right-handed) and he has been ineffective recently.
So Nathan it was.
Nathan said he was all right, not tired.
"I went out there and got the first guy," Nathan said. "I was making good pitches. Unfortunately the two walks hurt us. If I was all over the place with my pitches, then I could say I might be tired, but I was around the plate. I was just missing."