Right-hander Andrew Cashner was right in the middle of pitching debacle that was the Orioles’ 2018 season.
No matter how he pitched, the outcome was usually the same. He gave up three runs or fewer in 19 of his 28 starts and still ended up with an unsightly 4-15 record in the first season of a two-year contract he signed as a free agent 13 months ago.
The good news is that he didn’t need quite so long to get his fourth win of the 2019 season. He pitched seven strong innings Tuesday night, giving up just five hits and getting terrific run support in a 9-1 Orioles victory over the Chicago White Sox at Camden Yards.
That had to feel good, especially for a veteran pitcher who has been hampered by soft run support throughout his career. The Orioles scored all nine of their runs in the first four innings and hastened Cashner along the way to becoming the first O’s starter to go seven this season.
“I felt good,” Cashner said. “I thought the first three innings I wasn’t very good. I thought too many balls [were] left middle [of the plate]. I thought the defense really picked me up … That allowed me to get into a rhythm. I started attacking the hitters. I thought my curveball and my changeup really got better as the game went on and I started locating my fastball.”
Obviously, Cashner (4-1, 4.15 ERA) welcomed the run support. The Orioles scored just two runs in each of the first two games he started this year, but have averaged nine runs per game in the past four. Last season, the O’s scored more than five runs in his games just four times.
So, he can probably be forgiven for not caring a whole lot about wins — even though he’s tied for the major league lead in that department.
“To me, I think the game has kind of changed,’’ he said. “I don’t think wins and losses really matter anymore. I think if you look at the body of work I’ve done over my career, I think I’ve had a lot of quality starts and not a lot of wins to show for it. I think it’s kind of a biased stat. I think quality starts matter more.”
Well, the wins are nice, too. The O’s have won each of Cashner’s past five starts. He lost the season opener at Yankee Stadium, but is 4-0 in his past five games and his ERA over that span is an impressive 2.86.
Manager Brandon Hyde said before the game that the team needed a starting pitcher to go deep to keep the bullpen fresh for the series finale Wednesday night.
“That’s what really good pitchers do,” Hyde said. “Yes, on the wins, but we need some guys to help our bullpen out. That’s what Cashner did tonight. Seven really good innings. Strong through seven. Gave a lot of our bullpen guys a breather, which was huge.
“That was a veteran pitcher on the mound, knowing what our club needed and delivering, so hats off to him.”