Escape artist: Melancon slips out of trouble

Escape artist: Melancon slips out of trouble

PHOENIX -- Maybe Mark Melancon should trade in his signature cutter and curveball for a cool car and a martini. As manager Clint Hurdle said after a narrow 8-7 victory over the D-backs on Friday night, the Pirates closer has "got some James Bond in him."

Neither shaken nor stirred by a wild eighth inning, Melancon converted his first four-out save since Sept. 18, 2011. He escaped the eighth and retired the D-backs in order in the ninth, picking up his fourth save of the season at Chase Field.

"That's another top-shelf performance from one of the best closers in the game," Hurdle said. "He's got a very, very slow heartbeat, and he's got a lot of confidence in his skill set when he's on the mound."

Melancon ends 8th-inning jam

The Pirates stretched out the back end of their bullpen, unused for most of the last week. Neftali Feliz recorded two outs and stranded a pair of runners when Jonathon Niese found trouble in the sixth, and Tony Watson came out of the bullpen to start the seventh.

Watson and Melancon, two of the game's best relievers over the last three years, were tasked with protecting a four-run lead over the final three innings.

Watson fans Tomas in 7th

Watson breezed through the seventh on 10 pitches and returned to the mound in the eighth. Welington Castillo greeted him with a solo homer, pulling Arizona within three runs.

Batting with two outs and a man on second, Rickie Weeks Jr. banged a ball off shortstop Jordy Mercer's glove to pull the D-backs within two. Out went Watson, and in came Melancon for the four-out save.

Previously, Melancon only had two saves of more than three outs. He needed four to nail down this one, and the first proved to be the toughest. Jean Segura hit a grounder to first baseman Sean Rodriguez and dived into first, beating Melancon to the bag and allowing Weeks to score.

"Everybody did what they're supposed to," Hurdle said. "That's a play you think, 'Man, we should have had that out and gotten out of it.' No, you've got to go get somebody else."

With two on, Paul Goldschmidt hit a grounder at Mercer, who fielded the ball as Segura dashed by him. Mercer struggled to get the ball out of his glove and threw what he called a "changeup" to Rodriguez.

Rodriguez made an impressive stretch to reel in the errant throw, but after a replay review, Goldschmidt was ruled safe and the bases were loaded. Finally, Melancon escaped as Yasmany Tomas grounded out to third baseman David Freese.

"The game could have snowballed really easily there at the end," Niese said. "They did a great job of shutting it down."

Hanging on to a one-run lead, Melancon came back out in the ninth and pitched a perfect inning to seal the Pirates' ninth win.

"He's one of the best closers in the game, there's no doubt about it," Mercer said. "It's impressive what he does. It really is."

Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for since 2015. Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.