It wasn't pretty, but one of the great closers in baseball -- the Twins' Joe Nathan -- was able to retire the Texas Rangers on Sunday after loading the bases with no one out in the ninth inning to preserve a 5-3 Twins victory at the Metrodome.
Without Nathan, the Twins wouldn't be in the American League Central race. What a competitor this man is.
Texas led 3-2 before the Twins rallied for three runs in the bottom of the eighth inning to take a 5-3 lead. Nathan came in to pitch the ninth.
"It's not fun with a two-run lead, especially after both teams battled all game," Nathan said. "We battled back late.
"[It's a] situation where [you're] trying to do whatever you can to hold the lead and you know, it's pressure. It's fun, though. You've got to enjoy it. You've got to try not to think about the guys on base. They're already on, how ever they got on, you got to let it go."
Nathan walked Hank Blalock, and Nelson Cruz singled Blalock to second. Then Nathan made a throwing error on a potential double-play grounder hit by Ivan Rodriguez that left the bases loaded.
"Two of them could have been out if I made a play," Nathan said. "But, you know, I tried to concentrate on that next guy and see what we can do from here."
Nathan struck out Elvis Andrus for the first out, bringing up designated hitter Julio Borbon, a guy who Nathan said is tough to double up. Nathan retired him on a short fly ball to Denard Span in left field for the second out.
"I was just really trying to get an out with him," Nathan said. "If he hit a sac fly, great, whatever. We're still up a run. Fortunately, we were able to keep him shallow enough to keep them at third base.
"And then, obviously, one of the best hitters in the game, Michael Young [hitting .326 with 22 home runs], is coming up, swinging the bat great. Just really wanted to make pitches against him."
Nathan got Young to ground into an unassisted forceout to Brendan Harris at third base to end the game and earn his 34th save.
Nathan threw 53 pitches -- equalling the most he's thrown in any appearance as a Twin -- in blowing a save and then hanging on to beat Kansas City 5-4 in 10 innings on Aug. 21.
"That's ancient history now. [My] arm feels good," he said. "We're hitting September here pretty soon. Like I always say, 'All that tired energy is going to go away.' Everything else from here on out is going to run on adrenaline.
"I feel good. I'm actually getting my arm slot back. My last few times out, my arm slot was kind of erratic, kind of dropping down a couple times. So [Sunday] felt good because I got my arm slot back to a consistent basis. I was able to throw some good fastballs away to lefthanders, and even bury some ... good sliders inside, some fastballs in."
Yes, one of the best moves the Twins have made is signing Nathan to a four-year, $47 million contract in March 2008. He doesn't have to take a back seat to any closer in the game.Favre ready
Vikings coach Brad Childress is looking forward to seeing quarterback Brett Favre play at least a half tonight against Houston because he knows the future Hall of Famer is ready.
"He's great. It's just a matter of him getting that lower body in shape," Childress said. "There is nothing wrong with his arm. He is up to speed. I know he is anxious to play here on Monday night.
"Yes, we are going to play him a half. It's a good barometer for our whole football team to see where we are at."Jottings
Although Vikings ticket sales have slowed down after the week Favre signed, ticket manager Phil Huebner reported more than 300 season tickets were sold in the past week. There are fewer than 1,000 seats left for the Oct. 5 Packers game, but you have to buy a season ticket to get a ticket for that game. The home opener against the 49ers on Sept. 27 is sure to sell out, with only 2,000 tickets remaining. Fewer than 1,000 tickets remain for the final preseason game Friday against the Cowboys. There are a larger number of tickets left for the remaining home games, including the Nov. 29 contest against the Bears.
Gophers football coach Tim Brewster got a kick out of watching the Jets-Ravens preseason game on television and seeing former Gophers tight end Jack Simmons of the Jets trying to block his ex-teammate, defensive end/linebacker Willie VanDeSteeg, who is with the Ravens. ... Nolan Brewster, son of the Gophers coach, appeared in all 13 games with Texas last year, primarily on special teams, and could be a starting safety this season.
Gophers athletic director Joel Maturi said if Notre Dame decides to drop Purdue, Michigan or Michigan State off its football schedule in the future, the Irish might have an opening to play the Gophers. Maturi said he has been talking to Notre Dame about a game and is confident it will happen in the future. He tried hard to get Notre Dame to be the opening opponent for the Gophers in new TCF Bank Stadium. ... Despite reports that the entire Gophers home football schedule is sold out, apparently there will be some tickets available. However, demand for the Wisconsin game is so big that Maturi, a former member of the Badgers athletic department, said he never knew he had so many friends.
If you watched Randy Moss catch six passes for 90 yards and two touchdowns Friday when the Patriots beat the Redskins 27-24, you know why Vikings owner Zygi Wilf gets upset every time he sees Moss have a great performance. "When we were negotiating to buy the team, I had an understanding that [former Vikings owner] Red McCombs wouldn't trade anybody, especially Moss," Wilf said. "But he did trade him."
Twins reliever Jesse Crain maintained his record of never allowing Texas an earned run when he pitched 1 1/3 innings of shutout ball Saturday. He's faced the Rangers 15 times in his career without allowing an earned run in 19 1/3 innings. ... Twins attendance through 66 home games is 1,922,916, an average of 29,135, compared to 1,822,783 last year, an average of 27,618.
At this point, all living members of the Twins' All-Metrodome team that will be honored in the last two games at the Dome are expected to be on hand except Torii Hunter, who will be playing with the Angels, and Chuck Knoblauch, who hasn't responded to the Twins. The Twins are hoping Johan Santana can attend now that the Mets pitcher is out for the season after elbow surgery.
Some Internet sites are reporting former Eden Prairie defensive tackle Willie Mobley is going to transfer from Ohio State to UCLA, but Eden Prairie football coach Mike Grant said that is news to him.