Reliever becomes fourth Pirate to close both ends of twin bill since 1969
By Sarah K. Spencer
PITTSBURGH -- The Pirates' pair of 3-1 wins over the Mets on Tuesday had more in common than the score.
They also had more in common than closer Mark Melancon getting back-to-back, 1-2-3 saves. In both games, Neftali Feliz took the mound for the eighth inning, earning a hold before Melancon entered to nab the three outs needed in the ninth.
"Nobody got overextended, we felt, in the first game," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "We talked to them afterward. They said they'd let us know when they went down there. They both showed up pretty good. They felt good. They said, 'If there's an opportunity, we're ready to go.'"
Both pitchers said they felt up to it. Neither threw Monday due to the rainout. So why not?
"By the time I got down to the bullpen, I was right on track," Melancon said of his routine before his second appearance. "Right when I got there, I started my routine, and I was into it."
Melancon became the first Pirate to save both ends of a doubleheader since Matt Capps in August 2007. He's the fourth Pirate to do so since the save officially became a statistic in 1969, following in the footsteps of Joe Gibbon in 1969, Kent Tekulve three times from 1978-79 and Capps.
"Melancon continues to go out there and do things that make you go, 'Wow, he's special,'" Hurdle said.
The trip to the cold tub in between games helped, but Melancon stuck mostly to the same routine. Except for needing six outs instead of three, that is, on the way to save No. 19.
Feliz, though running into some trouble in the form of Curtis Grandson's 402-foot home run to right-center field in the first game, was glad to be given the responsibility of a second outing.
"It definitely feels good," Feliz said through translator Mike Gonzalez. "After the first game, I approached them and told them, 'Hey, I feel great if you need me for the second game.' And I'm grateful they trusted me with the opportunity, and I'm grateful I was able to give them my best."
In the second game of the doubleheader, starter Juan Nicasio pitched five-plus innings, allowing three hits and one earned run. Jared Hughes then Tony Watson pitched a scoreless sixth and seventh before it was Feliz and Melancon's turn -- again. For a bullpen that has struggled this season, the back-to-back performance impressed Hurdle.
"Both of them are big and strong and hungry to get things done and be a help," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "If Feliz doesn't get it done in the first game, Melancon never hits the mound. If Hughes and Watson and Feliz don't get it done, Melancon never hits the mound."
Sarah K. Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com based in Pittsburgh. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.