It was a dream scenario.
Then it hit him.
"If I give up the lead and Mariano [Rivera] does not get into the game, I might not get out of my own city," Nathan said.
But Rivera entered the game in the eighth and retired the side in order. Nathan struck out two of the four batters he faced in the ninth to seal the American League's 3-0 win against the National League at Citi Field and all was well on memorable night for the Junior Circuit.
"I wanted to make sure that it was a comfortable enough lead that I just couldn't take any chance," said Tigers and AL skipper Jim Leyland. "You know, I'm probably not the most popular manager in baseball. I wanted to make sure I got out of here alive."
In the end, Nathan earned the save, Rivera got the "hold" and the Rangers closer lived out a scenario he never even imagined.
"He's a legend in this game and hopefully, he has taught a bunch of people how to act as human beings, and as baseball players," Nathan said. "For what he does for people in the game and outside the game, he's a hero. He's a true hero."
It was quite a day for Nathan and fellow All-Star Nelson Cruz. Nathan was among the first players at Citi Field Tuesday afternoon and Cruz arrived a few minutes later. Both were beaming with joy from the moment they stepped into the visiting clubhouse until the moment they stepped on the field.
The smiles continued for an hour after Tuesday's game.
"I'll calm down sometime next week when I get a one-run game or something," Nathan joked. "I'll be a lot more calm."
It was hard to blame Nathan for having jitters.
The crowd at Citi Field erupted in the bottom of the eighth when Rivera's trademark song, "Enter Sandman," blared throughout the stadium. The legendary closer stood on the mound for several minutes acknowledging the crowd while the players on both teams remained in their dugouts.
The moment and the field belonged to Rivera.
"We definitely wanted to see him in the ninth, the situation where he goes in and has his moment," Nathan said. "But regardless of what inning he got to pitch tonight, that moment was pretty cool for us as players, for the fans and I am sure it was absolutely amazing for Mo."
Nathan followed Rivera in the ninth and struck out Cardinals second baseman Matt Carpenter and Pittsburgh's Andrew McCutchen. The Texas pitcher gave up a double to Arizona first baseman Paul Goldschmidt, but he retired Pittsburgh's Pedro Alvarez on a popup to Cleveland second baseman Jason Kipnis to end the game.
"It's obviously no secret how much I look up to him and it's pretty special," Nathan said. "It's pretty cool, especially how it wasn't expected, so this is a surprise party for me, too."
Cruz, who was selected as a reserve in 2009, also had his moments. He entered the game in right field in the bottom of the sixth with the American League leading 2-0. He led off the next inning with Cincinnati's Aroldis Chapman on the mound and walked on five pitches. He was forced out at second base when the next hitter, Toronto's Edwin Encarnacion, hit into a 6-4-3 double play.
Cruz grounded out to Carpenter for the first out of the eighth inning in his second at-bat.
"It felt great in the game," Cruz said. "I was a little nervous at first, but I got better and it eventually felt like another game. I'm happy for Mariano and for Joe, too. He did what he has been doing all season."
Cruz also had a week to remember.
"It's been busier that I thought it was going to be, but it was great to spend time with the family and the new guys," Cruz said. "Winning this game is more important than most people think it is. It's not just an All-Star Game. You've seen in the last few years, the home-field advantage is huge in the World Series."
Right-hander Yu Darvish also took in the All-Star festivities, but he did not appear in the game. He's currently on the disabled list with a mild strain in his upper back. Darvish was the AL Final Vote winner in 2012 but did not appear in that game, either.
"This is something that goes right along with my debut, something I'll never forget," Nathan said. "There are moments in this game you remember very clearly and this will be one of them."