Minneapois Joe Nathan entered in a save situation Saturday night and received a rousing ovation from the hometown crowd.
Quite a departure from a day ago, when Matt Capps was booed off the Target Field mound after another blown save.
Nathan couldn’t contain a smile after returning to the role he wanted. The Minnesota fans certainly embraced the Twins’ new, old closer as he preserved a 4-3 victory over the Kansas City Royals.
“Especially running in, it got a little louder than normal,” Nathan said of moving into the closer’s spot after pitching in a setup role recently. “Usually it’s like advertisements going on in the eighth inning. So, yeah, you’ve got to calm down a little bit more.”
Michael Cuddyer singled home the go-ahead run in the eighth inning before Nathan did his job as the closer.
Cuddyer, Minnesota’s lone All-Star representative, singled off Aaron Crow to drive in Alexi Casilla.
Nathan finished for his fourth save in seven chances. Earlier in the day, the Twins put the former All-Star back into his familiar role, replacing the struggling Capps. Nathan earned his first save since the Twins’ home opener.
“For me, I try to treat it all the same,” Nathan said. “Obviously the stuff going on outside the field is the stuff that’s different, with the music playing, the crowd gets a little louder in the ninth, everything seems a little bigger in that inning. For myself and my own mental preparation, everything is the same.”
Drew Butera added a solo home run for Minnesota. Glen Perkins (1-1) pitched a perfect eighth for the victory.
Twins manager Ron Gardenhire left the stadium during the game due to an illness — he’s been dealing with a viral infection. Bench coach Scott Ullger finished the game as the acting manager.
Jeff Francis (3-11) lost his fifth straight decision, giving up four runs on seven hits and a walk.