UPDATE: Joe Christensen of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports that Nathan is headed back to the Twin Cities to have an MRI on the elbow.
SATURDAY, 3:12pm: Luckily the Twins are saying it was only for “precautionary reasons,” but closer Joe Nathan was removed from Saturday’s game against the Red Sox due to some elbow tightness.
He faced three batters and threw 20 pitches in the third inning before being greeted by pitching coach Rick Anderson and assistant trainer Dave Preumer. As you’ll recall, Nathan underwent surgery in October to remove two bone spurs and bone chips from his right elbow. Here’s what he told Kelly Thesier of MLB.com:
“[There was] some tightness, achiness. We didn’t want to push through
anything,” Nathan said of his elbow. “I think it’s more being careful
than anything right now. [We are] taking things slow because we still
have a lot of time.”
Nathan said he will be reevaluated on Sunday, but did not want to “come to any assumptions” whether he’d be fine or not. It’s finger-crossing time in Minnesota. You wouldn’t know it by all the attention Mariano Rivera gets, but Nathan has a 1.87 ERA and 0.93 WHIP since joining the Twins in 2004.
With a 6-1 win over the Twins in Sunday’s season finale, the Royals clinched the best record in the American League, which nets them home field advantage in the ALDS and ALCS. The Royals stand at 95-67 while the Blue Jays, who lost on Sunday, finish at 93-69.
95-67 is the Royals’ best record since finishing 97-65 in 1980, when they lost the World Series to the Phillies. Their division title is their first since 1985.
In the ALDS, which starts on Thursday, the Royals will host the winner of the AL Wild Card game between the Astros and Yankees. They are looking to avenge last year’s World Series loss, in seven games, to the Giants. The Blue Jays will host the Rangers in the other ALDS series.
Both the Astros’ and the Yankees’ fates were decided before their own games had completed on Sunday. The Rangers defeated the Angels, which clinched a Wild Card spot for the Astros. Then the Astros dropped Sunday’s season finale to the Diamondbacks, which clinched the first AL Wild Card slot for the Yankees. The Yankees are on their way to a loss against the Orioles as of this writing, but that will not affect anything now.
The Astros were in a 3-3 tie with the Diamondbacks in the seventh inning, but reliever Chad Qualls served up a two-run home run to Paul Goldschmidt. That would prove to be the deciding factor in a 5-3 loss.
The Yankees are losing 7-4 to the Orioles behind a subpar start by Michael Pineda and a shaky performance by the bullpen.
The MLB postseason opens up with the Yankees hosting the Astros on Tuesday in the AL Wild Card game. The winner moves on to face the Royals in Kansas City in the ALDS.