With four-out save, Melancon starts prepping for postseason

There are few roles as defined in baseball as the closer's role. Is your team leading by one, two or three runs entering the ninth inning? OK, you're in.

And the overwhelming majority of the time the last two seasons, Mark Melancon has been used just like that.

So when the right-hander came bounding out of the bullpen yesterday with two outs in the eighth, it certainly raised an eyebrow or two around Nationals Park. Including inside the dugout, where a certain ace right-hander caught Dusty Baker's attention.

"(Max) Scherzer came up to me, he goes: 'I see what you're doing,' " the manager said. "I said: 'What you talking about?' And he said: 'I see you're practicing for Game 1 of the playoffs.' When, indeed, that same situation could come up."

Mark-Melancon-throw-blue-sidebar.jpgYes, indeed.

The postseason is a time to break the conventional rules of bullpen usage, and no rule is more conventional these days than the one-out save. So prepare yourself now for the unconventional come next weekend, when the Nationals open the National League Division Series against the Dodgers.

Melancon certainly is prepared for the possibility.

"I haven't done it much in the past," he said. "I guess, I don't know, I've done it some. But I expect that to happen in the playoffs. I keep the same mindset."

Of Melancon's 167 career saves, only four have come in appearances of more than one inning. Two of them came way back in 2011, when he was just learning the job for the first time with the Astros. The other two have come this year: Yesterday's 2-1 win over the Marlins and an April 22 victory by the Pirates over the Diamondbacks, when Melancon entered with the tying run at the plate and two outs in the eighth, then recorded four outs to secure an 8-7 victory.

What's the biggest difference between a multi-inning save and a traditional, three-out appearance?

"You're sitting out a half-inning, so your body's got to get used to that and get warmed back up," he said. "There's a little difference, but nothing that I can't handle."

It's that between-innings time, when his own team is batting, that Melancon actually finds the most valuable.

"I'm still taking notes, because in my next life I'm going to be a starter," he joked. "No, you just keep ready. Honestly, it gives me a chance to talk with the catcher and (pitching coach Mike Maddux). It's great."

Game 162 lineups: Nats vs. Marlins
Nationals thrilled to open postseason at home

By accepting you will be accessing a service provided by a third-party external to https://www.masnsports.com/