Even though he struggled mightily at times in April, Joe Nathan never blew a save in seven opportunities. That streak came to an end last night, when he came in to protect a two-run lead in the bottom of the ninth and allowed a pair of runs. The Devil Rays would score again in the 10th inning to capture a 4-3 victory, evening the series.
Nathan issued a lead-off walk to Brendan Harris, but it appeared he would work around it after he proceeded to strike out Josh Paul and Rocco Baldelli. However, that would not be the case, as the Devil Rays rallied for three straight singles and by the end of the inning the game was tied at 3. Opposing hitters are now batting .339 against Nathan; he hasn't allowed an OBA higher than .187 in a season since he became a full-time reliever back in 2002. His WHIP now stands at an ugly 1.83. These are distressing signs, but I'm still not worrying TOO much about Joe. His velocity is still up and his pitches still look good, and it seems like his struggles this season have been somewhat attributable to bad luck. Nevertheless, he has been giving up some uncharacteristic hard hits, and he needs to stop walking people.
Sadly, Nathan's blown save was hardly the low-point in another loss to the D-Rays. The Twins were once again inept against Tampa Bay starter Jae Seo, managing just two runs in six innings. In two starts against the Twins this season, Seo has allowed six earned runs over 13 innings (4.15 ERA). In his other four starts, he has allowed 21 earned runs over 16 and 2/3 innings (11.34 ERA). The Twins went 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position and stranded 11 runners on base. This shoddy effort wasted a solid performance by Boof Bonser, who for a second straight start was effective despite issuing two many walks (four over six innings).
It's disappointing to see Nathan cough up a two-run lead, but to waste energy complaining about that would be to overlook the true culprit in this loss: an offense that could score just three runs against Seo and a depleted Rays' bullpen.