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Cashner caps year with Performance of Month Award

If you thought a no-hitter on the last day of the regular season would clinch the Head & Shoulders Pitching Performance of the Month award for September, think again.

If you thought a complete-game win by a reigning American League Cy Young Award winner in a tiebreaker on the following day would clinch the award instead, think again.

The crowd at liked Andrew Cashner.

The Padres right-hander came a single away from a perfect game on Sept. 16 in Pittsburgh, dominating a club that was in the thick of a pennant race. That road outing took 48 percent of the vote in the final such award during the "Season of the #Whiff" campaign, barely beating a near-perfecto by Yusmeiro Petit of the Giants and far ahead of a last-day no-hitter by Henderson Alvarez of the Marlins and the tiebreaker win by David Price of the Rays.

Cashner struck out seven Pirates and walked none, yielding only a leadoff single to Jose Tabata in the seventh inning at PNC Park. Cashner finished the game -- his first complete game in 31 career starts at the time -- having faced the minimum 27 batters.

"Cashner threw great," Padres manager Bud Black said after the gem. "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."

Cashner finished the season in outstanding fashion, throwing 16 consecutive innings without allowing an earned run. His subsequent start was his last, when an unearned run resulted in a tough-break loss after pitching seven strong innings in a duel with Dodgers righty Zack Greinke. Cashner finished the season with a 2.14 ERA in the second half, including a 0.80 ERA over his last six starts.

"I'm very happy with where the season started to where I'm at now," Cashner said. "The command of my fastball has been the biggest thing. And the whole second half, I've had my slider."

Cashner wound up at 175 innings, and Black stopped him there rather than giving him one last start for the year. This award serves as a reminder about the promise Padres have when the 27-year-old Texan picks up next spring where he left off.

"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," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said after the near-perfecto. "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."

There were three no-hitters in 2013, including the one by Alvarez. The other two were in July by Tim Lincecum of the Giants and Homer Bailey of the Reds, and those pitchers finished 1-2 in the Pitching Performance of the Month balloting for July. Henderson seemed likely to close out this season-long voting campaign with the easy win, but it wasn't to be. 

In addition to voting for the monthly award, you can continue to be part of the ongoing Season of the #Whiff campaign throughout the postseason. See a whiff, tweet a #Whiff to @HSforMen.

Mark Newman is enterprise editor of Read and join other baseball fans on his community blog.

San Diego Padres, Andrew Cashner