As part of his end-of-season chat with reporters Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski said the team is expected to stick with Joe Nathan at closer next season despite his struggles this year.
However, the GM also indicated to James Schmehl of MLive.com that Nathan will likely be on a very short leash:
I would think he starts as our closer going into it, but he has to perform up to the capabilities required of doing it. Nathan, we know was very inconsistent. Particularly early in the season.
Nathan blew seven saves and had a 4.81 ERA after posting a combined 2.09 ERA for the Rangers during the past two seasons. He improved in the second half, throwing 23 innings with a 2.70 ERA, but even then his 17/13 K/BB ratio suggests Nathan was nowhere near his old self.
He also pitched through some arm issues and will be 40 years old next month. Nathan has a lengthy track record of elite work at closer and is under contract for $10 million next season, but it sounds like he’ll be on thin ice from Day 1.
With his Astros trailing the Tigers 2-1, catcher Robinson Chirinos began his at-bat in the bottom of the ninth a triple shy of the cycle. He doubled in the second inning, singled in the fourth, and hit a solo homer in the seventh. Yordan Álvarez and Yuli Gurriel both struck out, leaving the Astros’ fate in the hands of Chirinos against Joe Jiménez. After working the count to 2-1, Chirinos slapped an 85 MPH slider to the gap in right-center field. A diving Travis Demeritte could not come up with the ball, but center fielder Harold Castro fired the ball back in to Gordon Beckham, who then made a perfect throw to Dawel Lugo at third base. Chirinos was tagged out for the final out of the game. No triple, no cycle. The Astros lost 2-1.
Chirinos was attempting to become the first Astro to hit for the cycle since Brandon Barnes on July 19, 2013 against the Mariners.
The Astros entered Wednesday’s game as the largest favorite in 15 seasons, according to ESPN’s David Purdum. The Astros were -500 per Caesars Sportsbook. Other sportsbooks had them at -550. So the Tigers’ win was quite the upset.
Justin Verlander went the distance in the loss. The only blemishes on his line were solo homers to Ronny Rodríguez in the fifth and John Hicks in the ninth. They were the only hits he allowed while walking none and striking out 11.