Detroit Tigers closer Joe Nathan said Thursday he is sorry for letting his frustration get the better of him after Wednesday’s 8-4 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates at Comerica Park.
Nathan walked two batters to open the inning before getting Jayson Nix to line out and inducing Josh Harrison into a double-play grounder and he could be seen on the Pittsburgh telecast of the game making two distinct flicks of his chin, a gesture that is generally considered profane and demeaning.
The crowd had booed Nathan during his appearance.
Nathan acknowledged Thursday that he did direct those gestures at the crowd. Fans booed Nathan when he took the mound in the ninth inning and got louder after he walked Jordy Mercer and Travis Snider to put the tying run in the on-deck circle.
“The fans want us to win and we obviously want to win, so I do apologize for that,” Nathan told reporters, per MLive.com. “But again, we’re on the same page here. We’re trying to accomplish the same things. And unfortunately, this incident happened.”
It has been a trying first season in Detroit for Nathan, a six-time All-Star closer with the Minnesota Twins and Texas Rangers who signed with the Tigers as a free agent last December.
In nine seasons as a closer for those two teams from 2004-13 (Nathan missed the 2010 season due to Tommy John surgery), he had a 2.14 ERA and 0.961 WHIP in 593 appearances and 592.1 innings and saved 340 games.
But with the Tigers this season, the 39-year-old has struggled to a 5.11 ERA and 1.568 WHIP—by far the worst marks of his career as a reliever—in 47 appearances and 44 innings.
He has converted 24-of-30 save opportunities this season after blowing only six opportunities in 86 chances the last two seasons in Texas. The six blown saves this season matches his career high originally set in 2008 while with the Twins.
With the win, the Tigers kept pace with the first-place Kansas City Royals in the American League Central. Detroit remained a half-game back of the Royals, who beat the Oakland Athletics 3-0.
If you missed the gesture, check it out below.