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April 08, 2013

Wrapping up Rangers' 5-4 victory over Rays, as Joe Nathan joins 300-save club

Joe Nathan joined the 300-save club, but admitted it wasn’t how he drew it up.

Nathan entered the ninth with the Rangers leading 5-3 and gave up a leadoff single to Jose Molina. He retired the next two batters, Kelly Johnson and Desmond Jennings, as Molina advanced to third.

Then Nathan saw Rays infielder Sean Rodriguez rip a two-out RBI single back up the middle, which brought up Ben Zobrist. Nathan wasn’t too pleased to see Zobrist stepping to the plate. After all, Nathan didn’t have a great track record against Zobrist, who was 4-for-5 with two homers against him.

And Zobrist worked a 3-1 count before taking a slider for a called strike. With the count full, Nathan threw a backdoor curveball that appeared to be out of the strike zone low and away.

Nathan’s reaction even suggested he felt he had issued a walk to Zobrist and was bound to face Evan Longoria. But home-plate umpire Marty Foster ruled it a strike, a questionable call that didn’t please Zobrist or Rays manager Joe Maddon.

Foster admitted he missed the call after the game.

“Had I had a chance to do it again, I wouldn’t call that pitch a strike,” Foster said.

Nathan admitted it was a fortunate call, but he’ll take it. He becomes the 24th member of the 300-save club, and joins Yankees closer Mariano Rivera as the only two active closers to reach that milestone.

Nathan’s goal remains to reach 400 saves, saying: “I hope I still have three years left.”

Despite the missed call, Rangers catcher A.J. Pierzynski might have summed up the night best: “I know [the Rays] obviously got upset but it’s about Joe and his 300th save. I’m happy for Joe.”

Here are a few other notes from Monday’s game:

* Pierzynski and Mitch Moreland had back-to-back homers in the fourth inning, the team’s first tandem to do that this season. It was Pierzynski’s first homer of the season, while Moreland’s second.

* Alexi Ogando earned the victory. He allowed one run on three hits with three walks and two strikeouts over 5 1/3 innings. “Overall it was good, but there were some moments I just didn’t feel like my pitches were effective,” Ogando said. “I had to battle and had to grind but I got through it.”

* Nelson Cruz and Lance Berkman were both hitless, as their season-opening hit streaks of six games came to an end.

* Reliever Joe Ortiz had an impressive outing. He entered in the sixth with two runners on and got out of that jam and then pitched a perfect seventh. It was his first career scoreless outing.

-- Drew Davison

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