ARLINGTON, Texas — Joe Nathan's latest save will be easy to remember.
The Texas Rangers closer got his 300th career save, a 5-4 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays on Monday night that ended on a disputed called third strike that the home-plate umpire later admitted he got wrong.
"Fortunately, I got a decent call there at the end. I've seen plenty go the other way," Nathan said. "The umpires have a tough job too. He's back there for three hours, seeing a lot of pitches. I've seen plenty of close calls go against us."
Tampa Bay overcame a 5-1 deficit by scoring twice in the eighth off two relievers before Nathan came on in the ninth, allowing a two-out RBI single to Sean Rodriguez before the game-ending full-count breaking pitch to Ben Zobrist that looked low and outside.
Nathan even appeared to expect a ball and Zobrist was already on his way toward first base when umpire Marty Foster called strike three.
That game-ending call made Nathan the 24th major leaguer to record his 300th save. It was his second this season, his second with the Rangers after being the longtime closer for Minnesota Twins.
"Last out, last strike, and I know they obviously got upset," said new Rangers catcher A.J. Pierzynski, who after the 2003 season was traded to the Giants from Minnesota for Nathan. "But it's about Joe and his 300th save, and I'm happy for Joe. ... That's the biggest thing, it's a win."
Zobrist put both hands on his helmet and took it off in disbelief. Rays manager Joe Maddon argued with Foster and the other umpires for several minutes after the game ended.
"I saw the pitch and of course don't have the chance to do it again," Foster told a pool reporter after the game. "But had I had a chance to do it again, I wouldn't call that pitch a strike."
Nathan said he threw the pitch where he wanted to, and Zobrist "didn't offer like I thought he was going to. It's pretty safe to say we got a very fortunate call there but we'll take it. ... Did I draw it up like this for my 300th (save)? No. But we'll take it."
When asked about the game's last pitch, Rangers manager Ron Washington said, "We won the game, of course I liked it."
Asked if he had seen a replay, he responded, "No, not interested."
After Pierzynski's first homer for Texas, a two-out solo shot in the fourth that made it 2-1, Mitch Moreland pulled a 428-foot shot deep into the Texas bullpen in right-center field.
Elvis Andrus, in a 2-for-18 slide before singling in the fifth, added a two-run single in the Rangers seventh for a 5-1 lead.
Alexi Ogando (2-0) allowed only one run on three hits but needed 89 pitches to get through 5 1-3 innings. The right-hander walked three and struck out two five days after getting a career-high 10 strikeouts in 6 1-3 innings at Houston.
Jeremy Hellickson (0-1), starting on his 26th birthday, gave up three runs and five hits over five innings. He needed 30 pitches to get out of the first, including a nine-pitch leadoff walk by Ian Kinsler, and threw 98 pitches overall.
Texas was 1-0 in the first when Lance Berkman scored from first base on Adrian Beltre's two-out bloop double. Left fielder Sam Fuld made a diving attempt to catch the ball, which went under his glove and rolled behind him.
Tampa Bay got even in the second. Evan Longoria drew a leadoff walk and scored when second baseman Kinsler made a throwing error trying to complete a double play. Right fielder Nelson Cruz made a running, over-the-shoulder catch later in the inning to prevent a run.
Ogando, an All-Star starter in 2011 before working out of the bullpen last season, got into the sixth before walking Zobrist and giving up another single to Longoria.
Joe Ortiz, the 22-year-old rookie lefty who is only 5-foot-7, got out of that jam with a pair of grounders and then worked a 1-2-3 seventh.
NOTES: Pierzynski became the seventh different player to homer for the Rangers in their seven games. ... Beltre, the Gold Glove-winning third baseman, started the game with a standout play. He was up on the grass when Desmond Jennings hit a shot down the line. Beltre dove at an angle going backward to make a backhanded stab, then got up and threw out the leadoff hitter. ... Tampa Bay's first error of the season came in the second when 2B Zobrist was unable to snag Pierzynski's grounder. ... Nick Tepesch, a 24-year-old right-hander, will be called up for the Rangers to start in his major league debut Tuesday.