MIAMI — The last time left-hander Brad Hand won a start, he pitched for the Florida Marlins who played their home games at Sun Life Stadium and were managed by Jack McKeon.
Hand, sporting an orange Miami jersey, matched a career high with seven innings as the Marlins snapped a six-game losing skid in a 3-2 win over the San Francisco Giants Sunday afternoon at Marlins Park.
Since making his big-league debut in 2011, Hand had gone 15 starts without a victory. In fact, the other time he went seven frames — July 7, 2011 against the Houston Astros — he earned the win by permitting just two hits and no runs.
"No, not really, ’cause I haven’t had that many starts in between the time," Hand said of winning again. "It’s obviously great."
It couldn’t come at a better time for the Marlins after righties Nathan Eovaldi and Henderson Alvarez combined for just 6 2/3 innings to open the second half. A taxed bullpen needed a reprieve. Miami sent down utility player Ed Lucas in order to bring up another arm — rookie Anthony DeSclafani — prior to Sunday’s game.
The 24-year-old threw 96 pitches (64 strikes), scattering six hits and allowing a pair of runs in the third. He struck out four batters and walked just one.
"We needed seven and he gave it to us," manager Mike Redmond said. "He looked great. I thought he and (catcher Jeff Mathis) did a tremendous job keeping these guys off balance. He had command of all his pitches, got a little squirrely a couple times, but was able to get it back. That’s what we’re looking for is for him to be able to maybe miss if he does walk a guy be able to come back in the zone to the next hitter, execute his pitches. I think he was able to do that today."
Twice, Hand got into a groove following a Buster Posey at-bat.
In the third, Hunter Pence and Marco Scutaro hit back-to-back one-out singles. Posey drove both in with a double to tie the game at 2. But Hand settled down, striking out both Pablo Sandoval and Michael Morse en route to six straight retired.
Following a leadoff walk — his only issued — to Posey in the sixth, Hand got consecutive flyouts and a groundout to third. In his final frame, he required just five pitches to set down three batters.
"Sometimes a catcher gets him to not focus on what just happened, be able to move on and execute the next pitch when you talk about one pitch at a time, one hitter at a time," Redmond said. "Sometimes you’ve got to go out. Those pitchers get a lot going in their mind and they’re thinking two pitches ahead and sometimes you just have to refocus on one pitch at a time and the execution of that pitch. Matty’s got such a great feel behind the plate. He knows how to settle that pitcher back in as well as anyone I’ve seen."
This spring, Hand entered in competition with righties Tom Koehler and Kevin Slowey for the fifth spot in the rotation. In a tight race, Hand — who is out of options — went to the bullpen. When righty Jacob Turner landed on the DL in April, he took over and surrendered eight runs in 6 1/3 innings over two starts. He was put back as a long reliever until landing on the disabled list May 24 with a right ankle sprain.
Since being reinstated from the DL July 5, Hand is 1-1 with a 3.22 ERA in four starts. If he can continue to show signs of consistency, this spot in the rotation will remain his.
"I feel like all my outings have been pretty good since I’ve been back," Hand said. "Just build on this one, get the win and try to get out there in five days and get the win."