SAN DIEGO -- There's a pretty illustrious history of closers in San Diego, most notably a Hall of Fame-bound Trevor Hoffman. But with his save on Saturday night, Brad Hand turned in a dominant performance that's never been matched by a Padres reliever.
Hand struck out all four batters he faced to seal a thrilling 5-4 Padres victory over the Giants at Petco Park. In the process, he became the first pitcher in franchise history to punch out every batter in a save of more than one inning.
"I just made some good quality pitches," Hand said. "All the strikeouts came on exactly what I was trying to do."
Hand entered with the tying run on second base in the eighth, and he got Hunter Pence to chase a high fastball, ending the threat. In the ninth, all three of his K's came with his signature slider, a pitch that's widely regarded as one of the best in baseball.
It was yet another strong response to Hand's shaky start to the 2018 season. He blew a save against Milwaukee in the Padres' opening series and allowed three runs (all unearned) in the ninth inning of a tie game against Colorado.
In his five outings since that Rockies blowup, Hand has pitched five scoreless innings. He's allowed two baserunners while striking out nine.
After Saturday's game, Padres manager Andy Green lauded Hand's durability. Since the Padres acquired Hand via waiver claim April 2016, no one in the Majors has appeared in more games than his 163.
"The more you pitch him, the better he gets," Green said. "It's a crazy concept. ... He has an incredibly resilient arm, and the slider is a real feel pitch for him. The more he's out there throwing it, the better he feels. Most guys feel fatigue second day out, third day out. He doesn't run into that."
Last season, only Albertin Chapman, Kenley Jansen and Bud Norris recorded saves in which they pitched multiple innings and struck out every hitter. All three, like Hand, notched four punchouts apiece.
Hand became the first San Diego closer since Heath Bell in 2010 with four strikeouts in a save. Setting aside three-inning saves by Jay Witasick and Tim Worrell, Hoffman was the last Padres closer to do so before Bell.
It's clear Hand is well-versed enough in the club's history to appreciate his current job title. He's also quick to downplay the nature of his role.
"Obviously, Trevor was here for a long time, and his career is something that you can't put into words," Hand said. "He dominated here for a long time. Just the opportunity to be here, get those saves, is cool, and I'm thankful for that opportunity. But even if I'm not pitching the ninth inning, I'm happy as long as we're winning."