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90 percent sliders? It works for Hand

Closer secures 4-out save relying heavily on best pitch
MLB.com @AJCassavell

PITTSBURGH -- Brad Hand painted the outside corner with a slider on the first pitch he threw Friday night. Facing Gregory Polanco with the bases loaded in the eighth inning of a one-run game, he did the same thing with his second pitch.

It was going to be that kind of night.

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PITTSBURGH -- Brad Hand painted the outside corner with a slider on the first pitch he threw Friday night. Facing Gregory Polanco with the bases loaded in the eighth inning of a one-run game, he did the same thing with his second pitch.

It was going to be that kind of night.

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"Those ones that I threw to Polanco were pretty good -- the first two," Hand said. "I just stayed with it."

Sixteen sliders later, Hand had nailed down a nervy 3-2 victory over the Pirates, his signature offering as electric as ever. Hand faced five batters Friday night, and he threw 20 pitches -- 18 of them sliders.

"I mixed in a few heaters," catcher Raffy Lopez said of his signs. "He just wanted the slider. His slider's just so good. We just kept going to it."

Hand clearly isn't shy about using his slider in any situation. When he entered with the bases loaded in the eighth, he threw three straight sliders to start the at-bat.

When Hand ran the count full to Polanco, he didn't hesitate. Slider. Polanco bounced weakly to short.

Video: SD@PIT: Hand works out of bases-loaded jam in the 8th

"Three-two, I felt confident that I could throw it for a strike in that situation," Hand said.

Corey Dickerson blooped a double into left field to start the ninth inning, meaning Hand would have three more high-leverage situations to use his best weapon. He struck out Josh Bell. He struck out Sean Rodriguez. And he got Elias Diaz to bounce to short, ending the game. All three outs came on sliders.

This season, opponents are 4-for-41 on at-bats ending with Hand's slider. But it's not merely a putaway pitch. When he commands it, it's devastating early in counts. He's gotten 48 strikes looking this season via the slider, the second most among all Major League relievers. (Adam Ottavino has 73.)

"He felt good about it," said Padres manager Andy Green. "And he kept going to it."

And it kept working.

AJ Cassavell covers the Padres for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell.

San Diego Padres, Brad Hand