Detroit Tigers closer Joe Nathan had 36 saves in 36 opportunities against his new team when he pitched for the Minnesota Twins and Texas Rangers.

"I don't know if we ever scored a run off him," said Tigers pitching coach Jeff Jones, shaking his head.

Well, they did. Detroit scored 10 runs off Nathan in 66 2/3 innings. That computes to a 1.44 ERA for Nathan versus the Tigers, who batted .151 against him. He also posted a 0.894 WHIP against the Tigers, treating one of the game's top offensive teams and its leader like easy marks.

Nathan remembers the run-scoring single up the middle that Miguel Cabrera hit off him on Aug. 17, 2011 at Comerica Park.

"He gets to first base," Nathan said, "and says, 'Finally!' "

Nathan had no idea what Cabrera was exulting about and asked him what was going on.

"I finally got you!" Cabrera shouted. "I was 0-for-11 before that hit."

That he was. Counting the postseason, Cabrera was 2-for-13 (.167) with one walk, five strikeouts and one RBI against Nathan.

How did he get the reigning, two-time AL MVP out with such regularity?

"I don't know why," said Nathan, looking down and smiling. "I was fortunate. But on the last two at-bats he hit scud missiles."

He paused and raised his eyebrows, adding, "It's great to be on his side now."

The Tigers signed Nathan, 39, for two years at $20 million with a club option for a third season at $10 million or a $1 million buyout. The six-time All-Star has 341 saves, and has reached 40 saves on four occasions -- including 43 last year for the Rangers. Nobody has saved games at a higher rate than Nathan's 90 percent.

"I played with and against him," said Tigers right fielder Torii Hunter, who wooed Nathan to Detroit with text messages and an initial contact with the club. "And I know he's a bulldog. He does not want to take a day off, and is up there with Mariano Rivera over the last seven years."

Rivera, the all-time saves leader who is generally accepted as the best closer ever, had 239 saves in the last seven years. Nathan had 217 -- or an average of three less per season than Rivera.