The Sports Xchange

MLB Team Report - Detroit Tigers - INSIDE PITCH

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Joe Nathan needed just 12 pitches to show why Tigers manager Brad Ausmus is sticking with him as the club's closer, and not newly acquired Joakim Soria.

Nathan has had his rough moments this year, evidenced by a 5.73 ERA. He has allowed two or more runs in an inning seven times, including three games of three or more runs.

He's also 39 years old and has five blown saves to go with his 21 saves. But in closing out the Tigers' win over the Angels on Thursday, Nathan struck out the side on 12 pitches, thanks to a devastating slider.

"That was what we were hoping to see from Joe," Ausmus said. "That was as good as I've seen his slider all year. He was downhill, it was clear the hitters weren't picking up the rotation on the slider. It would look like a fastball and they'd swing over the top.

"That's the slider I remember facing. It looks like a fastball coming in at the bottom of the strike zone, you start your swing and it drops out of the strike zone."

Nathan ranks eighth all-time with 362 saves, five short of Jeff Reardon for the seventh spot.

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MLB Team Report - Detroit Tigers - NOTES, QUOTES

RECORD: 57-43

STREAK: Lost one

NEXT: Tigers (RHP Justin Verlander, 9-8, 4.84) at Angels (RHP Matt Shoemaker, 7-3, 4.54)

PLAYER NOTES:

--LF J.D. Martinez was back in the starting lineup Friday against the Angels after missing the two previous games with a strained upper quadriceps muscle. Martinez went 1-for-4 with a double.

--RF Torii Hunter has 22 RBIs in July, most in the majors. With 60 RBIs through the club's first 99 games, he is on pace to finish with 97, which would be the fourth-highest total of his 18-year major league career.

--LHP Drew Smyly struck out a career-high 11 in 5 2/3 innings, but got the loss in a 2-1 setback to the Angels. Smyly didn't allow a baserunner until the Angels' Howie Kendrick doubled with one out in the fifth. He gave up two runs on four hits and one (intentional) walk. "His cutter was really working," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said. "He was getting a lot of swings and misses over the top of the cutter, especially in the first four innings."

--RHP Justin Verlander will start Saturday's game against the Angels. He is 3-1 in July, but he failed to last at least seven innings in any of his four starts. Verlander is 4-5 with a 4.08 ERA in 12 career starts against the Angels.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "That lineup is deep and they don't give you a breather." -- Angels manager Mike Scioscia, on Detroit's batting order.