Green goes out of the box in summoning Hand

Padres skipper gets matchup he wants in 7th, but All-Star reliever allows walk, 2 homers

Green goes out of the box in summoning Hand

CINCINNATI -- Brad Hand's two-month-long scoreless streak came to an end Thursday afternoon. It went out with a loud -- and somewhat unexpected -- bang.

The Padres southpaw -- unscored upon in 24 innings since June 10 -- surrendered three runs in a 10-3 loss to the Reds. Scooter Gennett's go-ahead grand slam in the seventh broke the streak. Then Eugenio Suarez followed with a homer of his own, adding insult to injury.

But it was Hand's introduction to the game that drew the most scrutiny. With one out and men on first and second, righty reliever Kirby Yates worked the count to 2-2 on Reds slugger Joey Votto. Yates was about to toe the rubber for the next pitch, when manager Andy Green popped from the dugout and called for Hand.

His reasoning: "I want Brad Hand on the mound, lefty-lefty, 2-2 count. I think I'd choose that over anybody else on our team. In Votto's case, my guess is that he sizes a guy up. The deeper he gets into an at-bat, the better he feels."

Few could question the benefits of a Hand vs. Votto matchup. Hand is one of the game's toughest lefty relievers, facing one of its best lefty hitters.

But why not use Hand immediately? Well, Green had made an earlier decision for Hand not to get loose until after Yates plunked Zack Cozart.

"In an ideal world, he's starting the at-bat off," Green said of Hand. "You're looking at a closer. If you want to get him up in the seventh, get him up in the eighth and then he ends up pitching in the ninth, you end up wearing people out. In that situation, that had something to do with the timing of it.

"Then, 2-2, you look at yourself sometimes and say, 'Which guy do I want right here?' At that point in time, you have a choice."

Green chose Hand, and the decision backfired. Hand walked Votto and punched out Adam Duvall, setting the stage for Gennett.

Aside from being used as an injury replacement, Hand had never entered a game mid-at-bat. But he insisted he was loose by the time Green called for him.

"I pitched the same," Hand said. "I just left a pitch up to Scooter, and that was it."

There's also the matter of when the Padres opted to use Hand, their de facto closer. Since Brandon Maurer and Ryan Buchter were shipped to Kansas City on July 24, Hand hadn't pitched earlier than the ninth.

Green, however, has been adamant that if a moment called for Hand, he wouldn't hesitate -- regardless of inning. When the bullpen phone rang, Hand said he was ready to hear his name called.

"I don't think anybody has any roles down there," Hand said. "We're just all down there, whatever innings we need to piece together to win a game. That's what we're all down there to do."

Votto said it was the second time in his pro career that he's gone through a pitching change in the middle of an at-bat. The first? During rookie ball with the Billings Mustangs. After he had worked the count to 3-1 against a righty, he struck out when countered with a southpaw.

"It's not easy," Votto said. "He's tough. He's certainly challenging on left-handers with that slider. But I had to be ready right away, and he just missed two pitches."

Green on critical 7th inning

Reds skipper Bryan Price wasn't about to second-guess Green's decision-making.

"I've seen it before," Price said. "Andy felt his best matchup there in a two-strike count was to get Hand there against Joey. As much as it's outside-the-box thinking, he ended up with the matchup he wanted and you can't blame him for that."

Green noted that under different circumstances, Hand may have gotten loose sooner. But he's pitched more games than anyone else over the past two seasons. And the Padres have made a conscious effort to limit the number of times he gets warm and doesn't pitch.

"Taking care of him and putting him in a position to succeed long-term is more important than maybe the small advantage you gain by getting him up repetitively," Green said.

Once Hand was ready, however, Green wanted that matchup -- especially given the fact that Votto was hitting .400 with two homers and four walks against Padres righties this season.

"No doubt we went outside the box," Green said. "But if you stay in the box, you have to expect conventional results all the time."

AJ Cassavell covers the Padres for Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.