"I know both sides are frustrated, but the thing is, we're on the same page. The fans want to win, want us to win. We obviously want to win. I do apologize for that, but again, we're on the same page here. We're trying to accomplish the same thing. Unfortunately, this incident happened."
Nathan, who signed a two-year contract with the Tigers last fall, has struggled in the closer's role, including a blown save in his previous opportunity on Friday at Toronto. He received a mixed reception when he entered in the ninth inning Wednesday with a four-run lead, then was booed louder after each walk to start the inning.
The reaction was more positive once Nathan retired Jayson Nix and induced a game-ending double play from Josh Harrison. Nathan gave a flick of the chin towards the stands behind home plate immediately after the final out, then after shaking catcher Alex Avila's hand, did the same towards the third-base seats.
It didn't get a reaction from the crowd, but quickly drew ire online. The Pittsburgh broadcast of the game caught it.
Manager Brad Ausmus said he didn't know about it until he returned to Comerica Park on Thursday morning. He talked with Nathan about it before the game, and he had Nathan warming up in the eighth inning for a possible save opportunity before another sellout crowd until three add-on runs put the Tigers comfortably ahead.
"Clearly an inappropriate gesture," Ausmus said. "As players, you grind it out, and what happens if things don't go the way you want is you feel like you're letting the fans down, you're letting your teammates down and you let yourself down. And sometimes you become frustrated and emotional, and things like that happen.
"I talked to Joe. He's completely embarrassed by it. He's never done anything like that before."
Nathan's apology came as soon as he walked into the clubhouse.
"Listen, there's no hard feelings," Nathan said. "There's no frustration towards them. I know when they're behind this team 100 percent and they want us to get to the same place. They want us to get to the postseason. I know they want us to go out there and be perfect every time. I wish it was that easy, too, but this game isn't easy sometimes. You're going to go out and have struggles.
"The thing is, I don't feel like I have been struggling lately. I think it's gone pretty well. Sometimes when you walk a guy and frustration comes out on their end, trust me, I'm just as frustrated. I'm not out there trying to walk guys or trying to do this. I'm trying to win games, period. I don't care how it gets done.
"Like I said, we both want to win. We both want to get to the same goal, the World Series. That's what we're trying to do here. I do understand their frustrations and I apologize for my actions."
The scene played out on the same night that Victor Martinez, one of the leaders on the team, appealed for fan support after the Tigers returned from a 2-7 road trip in second place in the American League Central.
"They have all the right to be mad," Martinez said Wednesday night, "but I just let everyone know that it's not that easy like they think. We're not going to go out there and run over everything. I wish I could have five or six RBIs every night. That would be perfect for me and the rest of my teammates.
"You know what, the other guys on the other side, they have families, too. They are in the big leagues for a reason. So let's don't forget that part. We're trying. We're giving our best out there, man."
Asked if the fan reaction was unfair, Nathan said, "No, we know what we expect. We expect that from us as well. We know we have talent in here, and we go through stretches where we aren't playing the way we'd like to, and I think this coincided with how we've been playing the last few weeks, too.
"Like I said, I'm going to be better for my kids. I'm going to be a better example for them. This is something that's never happened to me. I feel bad for that and want to be a better person for that and a better leader for my kids and someone they can look up to, so I apologize to them as well."