High-pressure situations no problem for Hand

High-pressure situations no problem for Hand

PITTSBURGH -- Padres manager Andy Green loves when left-hander Brad Hand is on the mound, confident that his best reliever -- no matter what the situation -- is going to get the job done.

"No pressure situation affects him at all," Green said. "Nothing really affects him."

That was evident in the Padres' 5-4 loss to the Pirates in extra innings on Sunday at PNC Park. Hand pitched out of a bases-loaded jam in the 10th, and tossed another scoreless inning in the 11th to extend his scoreless streak to 23 innings -- the longest active scoreless streak in the Majors.

The Pirates, though, quickly capitalized when Hand left, with the newly acquired Sean Rodriguez belting a walk-off home run in the Bucs' first at-bat in the 12th.

But if Sunday offered any silver lining for the Padres, it's that Hand continues to be one of the top relievers in baseball, consistently delivering in high-pressure situations.

"Maybe it's my personality. I am just laid-back," Hand said. "You've just got to go out there and pitch your stuff. You get called in [for] those situations, it's your job to get out of those situations."

It's been nearly two months since Hand last gave up a run. He allowed four runs on four hits on June 10 but has been nearly perfect since then, going 21 straight games without allowing a run. Both his WHIP (.90) and strikeout rate per nine innings (11.55) rank second among National League relievers who've pitched at least 50 innings, while his 1.87 ERA ranks fourth.

Hand become the Padres' closer after the team traded Brandon Maurer to the Royals on July 24. He's thrived in that role, converting six consecutive save opportunities.

"I have just been throwing a lot of strikes and getting ahead, for the most part," Hand said. "I am not doing anything different than I was at the beginning of the year or last year. Things are just going the right way right now."

Hand's appearance on Sunday wasn't a save opportunity, but it was definitely a high-pressure situation. He entered in the 10th with the bases loaded and one out after Green decided to intentionally walk Andrew McCutchen and David Freese. Hand's batter was Jose Osuna, who had already doubled twice on the day. He couldn't afford one bad pitch.

But Hand doesn't throw many bad pitches these days. He tossed Osuna a two-seam fastball in the bottom of the zone, and the result was a soft grounder that landed in the glove of shortstop Dusty Coleman for an inning-ending double play.

"That's what he does," Green said. "I mean, at some point in time, he's human, too. But it's been a while since he's shown that. He's just gotten out of every dicey situation there is. When you are managing a ballgame, and you walk them loaded and you get to bring him in, you feel as good as you possibly can in that situation.

"He's been nothing but great."

Jonathan Toye is a reporter for MLB.com based in Pittsburgh and covered the Padres on Sunday. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.