The day after the Detroit Tigers traded for Texas Rangers closer Joakim Soria, Joe Nathan made a point of showing why he is still manager Brad Ausmus' No. 1 option in the ninth inning.
Nathan struck out the side on 12 pitches to secure Max Scherzer's 6-4 victory over the Los Angeles Angels on Thursday night in the opener of a four-game series between two of the top three teams in the majors.
The six-time All-Star posted his 21st save in 26 chances after Joba Chamberlain gave up a run on Josh Hamilton's sacrifice fly in the eighth.
"Honestly, I just thought of tonight as just another game," Nathan said. "I didn't look at it as anything more important than going out and trying to get a 'W' for us.
"It's not about individuals. It's about this team winning. So there was really no concern on my part about going out there and making sure I got it done so that I could stay where I'm at. It's up to Brad to make decisions like that, so I'm just going to go out and compete when they allow me to."
Nick Castellanos drove in the tying and go-ahead runs with a double in the sixth inning against Garrett Richards and Scherzer won his fourth straight decision.
Scherzer (12-3) tied teammate Rick Porcello and New York's Masahiro Tanaka for the league lead in wins. He allowed three runs and six hits over seven innings and struck out 11. It was the fourth time this season and 22nd in his career that the reigning AL Cy Young Award winner had double digits in strikeouts.
"Richards is a great pitcher and he's been having an awesome year, so you know you have to bring your 'A' game," Scherzer said. "I felt good with everything tonight and had all four pitches going. I hadn't been getting the swings and misses I had been searching for with that pitch, so I made a little adjustment with my grip. Tonight I felt like I had a lot more consistency with it and a lot more downward action."
Scherzer, the winning pitcher in the All-Star game, is 4-0 with a 2.21 ERA in six starts since giving up 10 runs over four innings in an 11-4 home loss to Kansas City on June 17. That came just five days after the seven-year veteran posted his first complete game and shutout in the major leagues with a three-hitter against the Chicago White Sox.