TORONTO -- The Rangers' bullpen has been one of the many strengths of the club this year, and closer Joe Nathan is the primary reason why.
Nathan notched his 22nd consecutive save Saturday, which set a club record, and he is 24-for-25 in save opportunities this season. The 22 straight saves is the longest active streak in baseball and just two behind the Indians' Chris Perez for the longest of the 2012 season.
The 37-year-old Nathan has had only one longer run in his career, which came in 2004 as a member of the Twins when he converted 27 straight saves.
Nathan missed all of 2010 after undergoing Tommy John surgery, and he came back in 2011 to turn in one of the worst seasons of his career. But that didn't stop the Rangers from signing him to a multiyear deal in the offseason, and manager Ron Washington believes he's pitching like his former dominant self.
"I think before his operation, what you see is what he was, all the years in Minnesota," Washington said.
"He just doesn't have one pitch, that's what makes him so effective. He can cut it, sink it, slide it, curve it, and he's not afraid to use any of them at any time."
Washington said the key down the stretch will be monitoring Nathan's workload because "he's at his best when we have him fresh."
The skipper plans on using Nathan a little less in situations that he may have found himself in earlier in the season. Washington said that will create an opening for others and named Mark Lowe, Tanner Scheppers and Michael Kirkman as some of the relievers he could rely on a little more as a result.
Scheppers and Kirkland were two key pieces during Saturday's victory, as they were part of a relief corps that worked 4 1/3 scoreless innings for at least the third time this season. Nathan may get the praise, and rightfully so, but the group that bridges the gap to Mike Adams in the eighth has been throwing exceptional, too.
Texas' bullpen has won four of its past five games and has the best winning percentage (.680) and save percentage (.853) in the Majors.