Ryan Madson knows this postseason could be his final act in Philadelphia, and he understands that how he performs will significantly impact the outcome.
"I want to win a World Series for sure because this could be the last opportunity for me here," Madson said. "I have had those thoughts, and it's weird for me because I never felt this way before. I want to make this season as special as possible."
Madson, a potential free agent, has already had a pretty special season, transitioning from Brad Lidge's setup man to closer. It took injuries to Lidge and Jose Contreras for Madson to be given the opportunity, but once he became the closer, he thrived and held on to the position, even through an injury. Now, he's quite comfortable being asked to record the final three outs.
With little fanfare, he has been one of baseball's most effective closers this season, converting 32 of 34 save opportunities. Only Milwaukee's John Axford has a better save percentage among National League pitchers with at least 30 saves.
This will be the first time in Madson's career that he'll enter the postseason as the Phillies closer. But in a bullpen that has created plenty of cause for concern in the final month, he is a trusted pillar.
"I think he can handle it," Washington Nationals outfielder and former teammate Jayson Werth said. "He's been setting up long enough in huge situations and postseason games, so I don't see this being a big difference for him. I see him as a frontline closer."
That's how Madson views things, too. In fact, he's eager to be in the closer role this postseason.
"Oh, yeah, absolutely," Madson said. "Games are won and lost at any point in the game, really. You do have more opportunities later, but now, because I have enough experience, it has just become very doable and very manageable.
"It is going to be fun and a new experience in this different role. I got a little of it at home in Game 5 against the Yankees [in the 2009 World Series], and that was a lot of fun and very intense. It was a good time, and I was able to do the job."
Madson, 31, has an impressive postseason resumé, posting a 2.35 ERA and 37 strikeouts in 302/3 innings over 29 games. That game against the Yankees was his only postseason save. It was during his first postseason in 2008 that the nation took notice as he lit up the radar gun with a fastball that touched 98 m.p.h. Madson said he surprised even himself with that kind of velocity.
"I was [surprised]," he said. "I really was. Everybody was asking me, 'Is that going to be there next year in spring training, too?' I'd say, 'I don't know.' The postseason is different. At that time, I was definitely hitting everything at the right time. I was super healthy and super strong. My mechanics were perfect at that time, and then I got all that adrenaline. That was definitely a high moment."
Madson is a firm believer in the powers of adrenaline.
"It definitely helps, especially late in the season when everybody is kind of coming down," he said. "It just gives you a spike of energy. It comes from the crowd because right when the national anthem starts, it's already buzzing. It's unlike any other game, and it keeps building as the playoffs go on. It's the time of year when you see velocity rise. People always say, 'Are the guns juiced?' No. There's just that much more going on and that much more excitement."
Phillies manager Charlie Manuel has made it clear that he wants his vaunted collection of starters to cover as many innings as possible during the postseason because of the late-season struggles encountered by Antonio Bastardo.
Madson, meanwhile, has been trying to help Bastardo recapture the dominant form he had through the early days of September.
"It's a fine line," Madson said. "Everybody has been talking to [Bastardo], and I'm more of a guy who is going to be basic with it. I just say to him, 'These guys, they can't hit you, so go back to what you need to do.' A lot of times when people are coming at you with a bunch of stuff, that's not good, and when you start thinking, that's the worst.
"I just tell him to remember his basics. I remember when [Danys] Baez was here, he would grind in the basics. Even for a guy like me, I need that. It's easy to fall away from that just because we play every day, and you don't feel the same every day, and Baez would just bring us back to the basics."
It will be interesting to see how much trust Manuel has in Bastardo during the postseason. As the season neared its conclusion, it appeared as if Lidge was the leading candidate to fill the eighth-inning role. We absolutely know, on the other hand, who will get the ball if the manager must go to the bullpen for the final three outs with the lead.
What we don't know is whether this will be Madson's final chapter with the Phillies, the team that drafted him 13 years ago.
"I'm open to anything," Madson said. "They know I'm super fair, and I'll just let it all take care of itself."