Cashner flirts with perfection, fires one-hit shutout
Seeking club's first no-hitter, righty retires first 18 before allowing hit
George Von Benko
Special to MLB.com
PITTSBURGH -- Padres right-hander Andrew Cashner flirted with a perfect game for six innings and threw a monkey wrench into the Pirates' pennant drive with a 2-0, one-hit shutout Monday night at PNC Park.
"Once he got into the fifth inning, I always think that no matter who the pitcher is and the way Cashner was throwing and where his pitch count was, you know the look in his eye, everything set up for a real good game," Padres manager Bud Black said. "[Pirates starter A.J.] Burnett was throwing really well, too. Then [Cashner] got through the sixth inning and I'm thinking nine more outs and then we got a couple runs and I'm thinking, 'OK, here we go, here's a real opportunity.'"
"I think it was a combination of a lot of plays," Cashner said. "The play that [Jedd] Gyorko made off my glove, to a couple of those slow rollers that [Ronny] Cedeno made, the balls in the hole that he made the play on and [Chase] Headley made the play on the changeup that I hung. I thought that I had a good chance."
Pirates left fielder Jose Tabata ended Cashner's perfect bid with a clean single just inside the first-base bag to lead off the bottom of the seventh. Cashner surrendered just the one hit -- and one baserunner -- while improving to 10-8. He notched seven strikeouts in his first career complete game, throwing 67 of his 97 pitches for strikes.
"That was a spot in the game where I was behind Tabata," Cashner stated. "I didn't want to get beat with my slider there and I still think it's a great pitch and I still think it's the right pitch, that's just the way it goes."
Cashner was on a roll coming in, as he hadn't given up more than three earned runs in his last 10 starts, going 4-4 with a 2.78 ERA. That included a 3-1 loss to the Pirates on Aug. 19, when he allowed three runs (one earned) and five hits over seven innings.
"Cashner threw great," Black said. "He was locked in on all pitches, the delivery was repeating itself, in between pitches the tempo that he set, the Pirates were aggressive and Cashner in the 90-plus pitches he threw, there were a few mistakes. You're not going to throw 95-96 perfect pitches, but he was outstanding."
Count Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle among those impressed with the San Diego right-hander.
"He's a good, good young pitcher. A power arm -- he had a three-pitch mix tonight … breaking ball, changeup -- right on right -- fastball command," Hurdle said. "Not only was the stuff sharp, he was very efficient, throwing strikes all night long. There's more there. Earlier in the season, [he] was dialing it up to three digits. Just a really good start by him."
The Padres may not have gotten their first no-hitter, but Cashner was the first pitcher in club history to face just 27 hitters in a nine-inning complete game.
"The guy threw all three of his pitches for strikes on both sides of the plate and, more importantly, they were down." Pirates second baseman Neil Walker said. "He was good, games like this happen. Unfortunately, it happened tonight to us."
Pittsburgh starter A. J. Burnett was effective, holding San Diego scoreless for six innings before the visitors broke through in the seventh. He allowed two runs on six hits in 6 2/3 innings and took the loss, falling to 8-11. He recorded eight strikeouts and issued three walks.
In the seventh, Cedeno singled and came around to score on a sacrifice fly by Will Venable. Cashner, who reached on a fielder's choice, scored on a RBI single by Gyorko.
"Burnett threw well," Black said. "We had a hard time the first couple innings gauging the breaking ball and we had some opportunities and we couldn't get the hit with two outs. We had a couple guys on in scoring position a couple different times and couldn't get the hit.
"Then finally we broke through with Cedeno getting the base hit and Rene Rivera with a nice opposite-field single and Cashner with a bunt. Venable [hit] a deep enough sacrifice fly. That was important to give us the lead and then Cashner got to second base and Gyorko got a big hit."
The Padres continued their dominance in Pittsburgh, having won 17 of 20 since the 2007 season and improving 29-10 at PNC Park overall. The loss temporarily dropped the Pirates a half-game back of the Cardinals in the National League Central, but with the Cards' 6-2 loss to the Rockies, Pittsburgh and St. Louis remain tied for first.