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Orioles take series behind Wojciechowski's gem

@JoeTrezz
July 21, 2019

BALTIMORE -- Save for the navy blue jersey draped over his shoulders, Andrew Cashner didn’t look all that different toeing the Oriole Park rubber Sunday than when he left. That was, after all, just eight days ago, when Cashner was shipped to the Red Sox for a pair of teenage

BALTIMORE -- Save for the navy blue jersey draped over his shoulders, Andrew Cashner didn’t look all that different toeing the Oriole Park rubber Sunday than when he left. That was, after all, just eight days ago, when Cashner was shipped to the Red Sox for a pair of teenage prospects after a year and a half with the Orioles, knowing a reunion was just around the corner.

It’s with that as a backdrop that the Orioles spent Sunday afternoon welcoming their former teammate back quite rudely. Trey Mancini homered twice and Asher Wojciechowski took a no-hitter into the seventh en route to a 5-0 victory over the Red Sox, the 30-year-old journeyman having a career day out-pitching Cashner under the sun at Camden Yards.

Box score

“That was the best outing I’ve ever had in the big leagues,” Wojciechowski said. “It’s something to enjoy, also to look back, build upon and look at as a springboard.”

In striking out 10 over 7 1/3 innings, Wojciechowski set personal highs in both categories, putting together arguably the strongest performance by an Oriole starter all season. By the advanced metric game score, it was the best, Wojciechowski’s 94 rating outpacing David Hess' six no-hit innings in Toronto back on April 1 (80 game score), Cashner’s seven scoreless against Cleveland on June 29 (76) and Dylan Bundy’s 7 1/3 shutout frames vs. Tampa Bay on May 4 (75).

By traditional metrics, too, Wojciechowski was dominant: he struck out nine of his first 13 batters and faced just one over the minimum before Rafael Devers doubled to lead off the seventh. Paul Fry and Mychal Givens secured the final five outs to send the Orioles to their first series win over the defending champs since late August 2017.

“I was going to let him go, obviously not going to break any records or anything,” Baltimore manager Brandon Hyde said. “But he’s a veteran guy and it was going to be his moment for as long as he could go …. He's coming here with the right mindset of ‘give me the ball and I want to prove to people what I can do.’ And he's doing that.”

Thrust into Baltimore’s rotation due to a stipulation in his contract after the Orioles purchased him from the Indians in early July, Wojciechowski entered play with a career 6.49 ERA in 34 career Major League games. He spent all of 2018 at Triple-A with most of it in Norfolk before he, in his words, “wrote the Orioles off” when he didn’t earn a call to the Majors.

He’s now made five appearances (four starts) for Baltimore, going 1-3 with a 3.91 ERA and 31 strikeouts over 23 innings in those outings. He’s pitched for eight organizations across 10 professional seasons.

“The last thing I would think is to be back with the Orioles this year,” Wojciechowski said. “I’m happy for the opportunity, I’m happy to be here and it was a great team win today.”

In a vacuum, it was an emotional victory against a former teammate who assumed an outsized role in the clubhouse before departing, and whose trade market was reportedly limited. But more than anything, it underscored a reality for the Orioles heading into the July 31 Trade Deadline: that competing against former teammates may soon become a more regular thing.

A relatively expensive veteran on an expiring contract, Cashner, 32, was the most obvious trade chip for an organization fully focused on stockpiling prospects for the future. They’re expected to field offers for at least a few others in the week-plus to come, namely Givens, Jonathan Villar and perhaps even Mancini. In the meantime, they’ll continue to backfill by taking fliers on players like Wojciechowski, hoping they grab their opportunity by the horns.

“You battle with those guys all year so it was fun facing them. I just wish I could’ve had it during a night game,” said Cashner, who has allowed nine earned runs in two starts with Boston. “[Wojciechowski] had it going on. He located down and away. I thought he got more calls than I did, but that’s just the way it goes.”

Joe Trezza covers the Orioles for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @JoeTrezz.