07/14/2004 1:19 AM ET
Nathan dazzles NL hitters
Twins closer commands seventh inning
By Ian Browne / MLB.com
HOUSTON -- As Joe Nathan took the mound in the seventh inning Tuesday night to commemorate the first All-Star appearance of his career, he half wondered if adrenaline was about to be his worst enemy.
|Joe Nathan pitched a brilliant seventh inning in the All-Star Game. (Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Nathan, the closer of the Minnesota Twins, felt strong, too strong.
As it turns out, the extra amp in Nathan's fastball led to a brilliant inning of work. National League hitters Bobby Abreu, Mike Lowell and Miguel Cabrera looked helpless.
Nathan opened with a strikeout of Abreu, then got Lowell to fly out to Gary Sheffield and fired a 97 mph fastball right by Cabrera to end his lone inning of work.
"I felt a lot of adrenaline, I had trouble getting the ball down," Nathan said. "Fortunately I had some life on it and was able to get it by some guys. It was definitely electrifying out there. I was like, all right, slow down, and make good pitches here with the fastball and keep it down."
With a 1.13 ERA and 23 saves in 24 opportunities, Nathan is having a breakout season for the Twins.
He relished his All-Star opportunity, spending time in the bullpen with the likes of Mariano Rivera, Francisco Rodriguez and Tom Gordon.
"I think it was just fun hanging out down there," Nathan said. "It was kind of cool seeing how they go about their business too."
In fact, building relationships with other elite players was just as gratifying for Nathan as his dominant inning during the game.
"Just the whole experience, hanging out with these guys, hanging out with players that I'm usually watching at this time during the All-Star break. To be a part of it and be one of them will be something I think I can look back on all the time and hopefully something I can tell my grandkids about," said Nathan.
Nathan wasn't suffering from a bloated head after his blaze of glory in that seventh inning.
"It takes some of your best effort and probably a little bit of luck to get these hitters out on a consistent basis," said Nathan.
He only hopes his fastball will be so alive the next time he performs last call for the Twins.
"Lately my arm strength has been pretty good," Nathan said. "But definitely the All-Star Game and the competition I was facing kind of brought me to another level there."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.