By Ryan S. Clark
MIAMI -- Hand it to the an unlikely pitcher to help the Marlins end a six-game losing streak.
After giving up two runs in the third, Marlins pitcher Brad Hand and his catcher, Jeff Mathis, had a conversation. The chat helped the 24-year-old recover his confidence allowing the starter-turned-reliever-converted-back-to-starter throw one of the best games of his career in a 3-2 win over the Giants on Sunday at Marlins Park.
"I mean it is a big win," Hand said. "Our bullpen guys were used a lot [Saturday]. The past two games actually. I was just trying to go up there and get deep into the game."
Hand's achievement had several effects.
Ending the losing the streak, the team's third spell of five or more losses, was one.
Another was giving the Marlins bullpen a much-needed break. Five relievers were used in the series-opening 9-1 loss to the Giants on Friday. The Marlins went to Sam Dyson in the top of the third after a leg injury to Henderson Alvarez on Saturday.
There's also the confidence that comes with this win. Hand, like so many of the Marlins' arms, has struggled with consistency. It was his first win as a starter since a 5-0 win over the Houston Astros on July 7, 2011. Hand also tied a career-high by throwing seven innings, a feat he pulled off in that 2011 win.
"I haven't had that many starts in between [his wins as a starter]," Hand said. "But it's obviously great."
The Marlins gave him a 2-0 lead in the first off a home run from Casey McGehee.
McGehee, who is third in the National League with a .322 average, went more than two months between home runs. His first home run of the season came July 10 in a 9-3 loss to the San Diego Padres.
Looking back, McGehee said he wasn't sure if Giants pitcher Tim Lincecum threw him a splitter or a slider.
"Sometimes it's hard to tell with him, his slider and his split both have late action on them," said McGehee, who went 2 for 4 extending his NL hits lead to 120. "When it got over the fence is when I knew it was gone."
Hand opened the third striking out Lincecum only to give up consecutive singles. Giants catcher Buster Posey drove a two-run double down the left field line tying the game. Hand responded by striking out the next two batters.
Neither team really threatened to score again until the seventh. Posey walked with two outs but Hand forced a groundout to get out of the frame.
It set up Marlins shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria, who doubled to center, and reached third on a Mathis sacrifice. He gave the Marlins a 3-2 lead after scoring on a Lincecum wild pitch.
Hand was replaced by Bryan Morris who had a flawless eighth. Closer Steve Cishek snatched his 21st save with a 1-2-3 ninth.
"His command was great, his misses were down in the zone," said Marlins manager Mike Redmond of Cishek "It was a very efficient ninth inning. It's been a while since we've used three guys in a game."
The Marlins travel to Atlanta to face the Braves on Monday for a four-game series. Following a three-game series in Houston, the Marlins will host the Washington Nationals for three games.
Those seven games against the Braves and Nationals, which entered Sunday tied for the NL East lead, could be pivotal for the Marlins season.
A few wins here and there may allow the Marlins, who started the day eight games out of first place, to cut the division lead right before the July 31 trade deadline.
"We can't think too far ahead," Redmond said. "I know you guys get tired of people saying that, but it is the truth. We needed a win. We've been struggling. We've lost quite a few games in a row."
Sports | July 21, 2014 | Page 1C, 3C
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