PITTSBURGH -- The Pirates jumped out to a 6-0 lead against the Rockies on Monday afternoon. It wasn't an insurmountable margin, but one most would describe as comfortable.
Yet at the end of the game, manager Clint Hurdle had to call on closer Mark Melancon for the final two outs. It was Melancon's fifth save of the season (out of 15 total) in which he recorded one or two outs and the fifth in which he's been asked to bail out another reliever in the ninth inning.
On Monday, reliever Jared Hughes began the ninth with a four-run lead. He retired Nolan Arenado for the first out then gave up consecutive singles, putting the potential tying run on deck -- and making it an official save situation.
Hughes came into a high-pressure situation in Tuesday's 12-1 win over the D-backs, throwing one pitch to escape a jam in the sixth inning. With two outs and the bases loaded, Hughes threw a 92-mph sinker and induced an inning-ending groundout from Brandon Drury.
Hurdle has made it clear he will call on Melancon in any save situation, and Melancon has maintained that he's ready for anything. Still, the Pirates would prefer to see their bullpen give Melancon the occasional day off.
On April 6, Melancon cleaned up the ninth for Cory Luebke. On April 29, he recorded the final out for Arquimedes Caminero. The next day, he did the same for A.J. Schugel. On May 8, he recorded two outs in the ninth when Ryan Vogelsong couldn't finish the job. On Monday, he picked up where Hughes left off.
Hurdle said he has no plans to send out Melancon to start the ninth with a four-run lead, which means he will continue to count on other relievers to get the job done until it's necessary to bring in Melancon. What has been the problem for the rest of the bullpen in the ninth inning?
"It's a challenging situation for anybody to go out there," Hurdle said. "You've almost got to run the table, or you get one baserunner and you're going to be out. ... The perception is he didn't pitch well, which might not be fair."
Former Pirates shortstop Clint Barmes announced his retirement after being released by the Royals on Monday. Barmes had been with Kansas City's Triple-A Omaha affiliate.
Over 13 seasons in the Majors, Barmes hit .245/.294/.379 for the Rockies, Astros, Pirates and Padres. Barmes played for Hurdle in Colorado from 2003-2009, and in Pittsburgh from 2012-14.
Informed of Barmes' decision to call it a career, Hurdle praised the glove-first infielder for his contributions to the Pirates and said he could see Barmes getting into coaching "if he wanted to."
"Big heart. Lot of want-to. Small town, small college. Just worked. Had a lot of self-confidence. Dad and mom raised him right," Hurdle said. "I'm proud of him because he's that guy that, sometimes outside of our game, people say he's an overachiever. Not in his mind. This is what he planned on doing, and he did it."
Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter @adamdberry. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.