This one isn't as complicated as predicting the weather. It's a rather simple truth about Orioles right-hander Andrew Cashner that has played out plenty this season and came into focus again in Wednesday's soggy 4-1 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies.
He was cruising through the Phillies lineup for five innings, completing two scoreless turns through the lineup, before it flipped over a third time to open the sixth inning and the Orioles' one-run lead turned into a two-run deficit. The rain picked up around that time, but that doesn’t wash away what’s happened to Cashner time and again this season. Pitchers all around the game have been found to pay a penalty for facing a lineup three times, and Cashner is part of that group, even if the rain is cited as a factor.
“Some people look at that [statistic], and rightfully so,” manager Buck Showalter said. “There's some stuff to back that up. But I don't think that was the case today.”
Said Cashner: “I thought I threw the ball well. The sixth inning, the ball just kept slipping out of my hand. It got pretty wet there. I've just got to execute better.”
Cashner (1-5) has been a capable major league pitcher this year, just as the Orioles signed him to be. He was as good as he's been in an Orioles uniform through the first five innings Wednesday, striking out six and allowing just four men to reach while throwing 73 pitches to get there.
5.16.18 -- The O's lost to the Phillies Wednesday afternoon, 4-1. (Ulysses Muñoz / Baltimore Sun video)
The sixth inning brought a third look for the Phillies, who were no longer off the scent. Second baseman César Hernández homered over the right-field scoreboard on Cashner's first pitch of the sixth, and after a quick lineout by Rhys Hoskins and a full-count groundout by Odúbel Herrera, the trouble began in earnest.
Carlos Santana worked the count full and drew a two-out, nine-pitch walk, went first to third when Nick Williams singled and scored when Maikel Franco's base hit chased Cashner.
He said he didn’t see the hitters on him any more than usual in that sixth inning.
“I don't feel like it,” Cashner said. “I left some changeups up. The ball that Franco hit in the four-hole, the changeup was up but I still thought it was a good pitch. I've just got to execute better later in the game.”
Williams came around to score when Pedro Florimón singled off Richard Bleier, closing the book on Cashner at three runs on five hits in 5 2/3 innings, lowering his ERA from 4.84 to 4.83.
The Orioles signed Cashner for his consistency, and they're getting it. He's either started slowly and grinded deep into the game to keep the Orioles close, or like Wednesday, seen a gem turn into something less once hitters see him for a third time.
According to Baseball Reference stats entering Wednesday, the league-average jump in opponents’ batting average from the second time through the order to the third was .245 to .270, and their OPS jumped from .725 to .805. For Cashner, it was even more striking. Opponents were batting .226 the first time through, .239 the second and .341 the third time through. Their OPS went from .803 the first two times through the order to .940 the third.
And considering he allowed a single and a double and walked two the first two times through before allowing two singles, a walk and a home run the third, those splits will look only more daunting. It follows a familiar pattern for him this year.
The previous time out, against the Kansas City Royals, Cashner allowed a run on three hits in the sixth inning and watched a 3-2 lead turn into a tie game for the bullpen to deal with. Three starts before that, on April 22, the Cleveland Indians scored twice in the fifth inning as they saw Cashner a third time, turning a 3-2 Orioles lead into a 4-3 deficit in an eventual 7-3 Orioles loss.
Even so, Cashner gave the Orioles a chance to win this time out. They had a fully rested bullpen, as evidenced by the four relievers they used to cover 3 1/3 innings behind him, and he came just an out shy of his fifth quality start in nine tries.
“It's frustrating, but you've just got to trust the process,” Cashner said. “I think you go from your routine to your daily work, and it can't go this bad the whole season. So, you can get frustrated and you can get down, but you've just got to trust the process and keep going.”